Current health and safety topic areas

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that has been used as a building material since the 1950s due to its insulating properties, fire protection properties and protection against corrosion.

When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases such as lung disease, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself and others now.

Anyone who is responsible for maintenance and repairs in non-domestic buildings has a legal ‘duty to manage’ any asbestos in that building.

Before you consider carrying out any building maintenance, repairs or building works at your premises you must undertake a survey to identify the presence of any asbestos and undertake a risk assessment of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified.

You will then have to plan implement how the risks from these materials will be managed. There is help and advice on the HSE website.

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Beverage gas is used for drinks such as beer and soft drinks. This tends to be carbon dioxide and nitrogen or mix of these gases.

These canisters are highly pressurised and must be stored, handled, maintained and used properly. You must ensure you only ever purchase beverage dispense gas products from reputable gas suppliers.

Canisters must be stored in ventilated areas, not near ignition or heat sources and be appropriately restrained with chains/straps (or chocks for horizontal cylinders) whether full or empty. The gas canister checklist should be used to check your cylinders are in a good condition.

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Bouncy castles, inflatable slides and other inflatables can be great fun but there have been serious incidents where they have collapsed or blown away.

Incidents were due to the poor quality of construction, maintenance and operation of the inflatable play equipment. 

The most serious accidents were due to the lack of supervision of the inflatable play equipment when it was in use and the equipment not being properly secured.

Health and safety law applies to the supply, hire and use of inflatables for commercial purposes.

Areas to consider are:

  • The quality of the equipment and maintenance
  • The safe operation of the equipment
  • Supervision and training
  • Electrical safety
  • The use of petrol blowers
  • First aid provision and accident reporting

For further information please visit:

We have produced an Inflatable Equipment Checklist to help businesses who use or supply inflatable equipment to comply with the law. 

For information and how to register or to access the cooling tower register, please visit our cooling tower notification page

You are required by law to ensure that electrical installations and appliances are maintained in a safe condition.

To achieve this a programme of preventative maintenance should be set up to identify and remedy defects before they can cause danger.

Visual checks should be undertaken regularly and any defects promptly rectified. In addition the electrical installation and appliances should be checked at intervals recommended by a competent electrician.

The fixed installation should be inspected and tested in accordance with the current Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) Wiring Regulations. Earthed portable appliances used on the premises should be tested. The date of the test, description of the appliance, electrician’s comments and next test date should be recorded.

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Working on roofs can be dangerous and falls from roofs can cause death and serious injuries. 

Falls from roofs can be caused by gaps and holes in roof, falling through roof lights, standing on fragile roof material (materials such as corroded metal sheets, non-reinforced fibre cement sheets, roof slates/tiles, and glass) and from falling off the edge of a roof. 

The law says you must organise and plan all roof work so it is carried out safely.

If an inspector encounters failure to control risk, work will be prohibited and prosecution may follow.

Before work is carried out, be it general repairs, cleaning, inspection or maintenance, you must organise and plan all roof work so that it can be carried out safely. A roof risk assessment must be undertaken considering personal protective equipment, edge protection, weather conditions, the condition of the roof and the removal of any materials. 

In addition to a risk assessment adequate training, supervision and information must be provided to any persons working on roofs.

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If you have gas in a business you are required by law to ensure that appliances and/or fittings are installed and maintained by a competent person.

They must be regularly (usually annually) inspected and checked so that you can demonstrate they are being maintained in a safe condition for continued use.

A competent person is someone who is registered with the Gas Safe Register and is able service the type of appliances you have in a commercial setting.

If you smell gas, call the free National Grid Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

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Legionella is a bacteria which is found within natural water systems such as ponds and rivers.  In these sources the bacteria rarely causes problems.

When the bacteria grows in purpose built water systems, such as commercial and domestic hot and cold water supplies, spa pools, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, the water is kept at a temperature which could encourage growth of the bacteria. When the water is dispersed there is potential it could be inhaled and result in illnesses such as Legionnaires disease, which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

Businesses must carry out a risk assessment to identify any potential sources of legionella and ensure that sufficient control measures are put into place to control the risk.

If you have any cooling towers or evaporative condensers you have a legal duty to notify the Licensing Team, please visit the Public Health – cooling tower notification page for further information.

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Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) covers damage or disorder of the joints in the back, upper and lower limbs.

MSDs are the most commonly reported cause of ill health within the workplace as MSD hazards are found in virtually all workplaces.

MSD injuries include:

  • Back pain
  • Upper limb disorders such as carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Lower limb disorders such as osteoarthritis and knee bursitis

Areas which need to be considered for MSDs include:

  • Use of Display Screen Equipment
  • Manual Handling
  • Hand-arm Vibration

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In recent years, there have been serious and fatal injuries to members of the public and employees due to outdoor signage.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires the landlord or managing agent to make sure any place of work under their control is in a safe condition and does not risk anybody's health. This includes outside signage.

Outdoor signage is often exposed to poor weather which, over time, can cause it to be in poor condition and less secure. Modifying or changing the original signage may also reduce its safety.

It is important that outdoor signage is inspected and maintained as part of an ongoing maintenance programme. This can be included in the installer or sign maker's recommendations.

If there aren't any recommendations, the landlord or managing agent should include all external signage in any planned inspection or maintenance schedules to help make sure they are safe.

There have been incidents where rough sleepers have sought shelter in large waste containers. This has led to injuries and deaths when the containers were emptied.

Businesses have a duty to ensure preventative measures are in place to stop people from accessing waste containers.  

Possible steps that can be taken include:

  • Place waste containers in a secure area not open to the public
  • Improve lighting in the waste container storage area
  • Securing waste container lids with locks
  • Checking inside waste containers

For further information please visit WISH Managing access to large waste and recycling bins

Silica is a natural substance found in varying amounts in most rocks, sand and clay.

Silica is also a major constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar.

When these construction materials containing silica are altered by either cutting, drilling, grinding and/or polishing the dust produced is fine enough to be inhaled deep into the lungs. This respirable silica dust can cause lung disease and lung cancer.

Employers are required to comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) and need to carry out a risk assessment, consider alternative materials with a lower silica content, exposure limits and personal protective equipment.

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For information and registration for skin piercing, such as tattooing and cosmetic piercing, please visit our Tattoos, Skin Piercing, Electrolysis, Acupuncture and Microblading Registration page

Some food business kitchen appliances use solid fuel such as charcoal and hardwood to cook and heat food.

Solid fuel appliances include tandoori ovens, charcoal grills and wood-fired pizza ovens. 

There are two risks associated with the use of solid fuel:

  1. there is an increased risk of fire in these premises
  2. there can be increased carbon monoxide levels. Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas and can be toxic when inhaled, exposing employees and customers to risks. At low levels, chronic carbon monoxide poisoning can produce symptoms of lethargy, flu-like illness and impaired memory; at high levels, acute carbon monoxide poisoning can produce headaches, nausea, vomiting and may lead to loss of consciousness and death.

There are many steps that can take to help prevent or minimise fire and carbon monoxide risks from solid fuel appliances, including:

  • the safe installation and use of such appliances
  • ensuring there is suitable and sufficient ventilation
  • adequate cleaning
  • proper fire protection systems
  • safe storage and ignition practices
  • adequate staff training.

 For further information visit:

Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from stress at work.

The Health and Safety Executive have defined stress as ‘the adverse reaction to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them'.

Stress can affect people differently depending upon an individual’s circumstances.

Employers should carry out a risk assessment and implement controls to manage stress within the workplace.

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