Common questions

Temperature

What is the minimum working temperature? 

The temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius.  If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.  However these temperatures may not necessarily provide reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement, relative humidity and worker clothing.

What is the maximum working temperature? 

There is no maximum temperature.  If the temperature is uncomfortably high, an employer should take all reasonable steps to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature.

If it is -10 degrees Celsius outside can employees refuse to work? 

Not under health and safety legislation, it would be at management’s discretion.  Suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided in instances where local heating or cooling fails to give reasonable comfort.  Where practical, there should be systems of work (e.g. task rotation) to ensure the amount of time individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.

For more information on this subject please visit the Temperature in the workplace page

 

Display Screen Equipment.  

Am I entitled to an eye test if I work on Display Screen Equipment?    

You are entitled to ask your employer to provide an eye test if you are an employee who habitually uses DSE as a significant part of your normal day to day work. This is a full eye and eyesight test by an optometrist (or a doctor).

How often should an eye test be carried out? 

As often as your optometrist or doctor advises. 

Do I have to pay for glasses? 

The employer would pay for ‘basic’ glasses for computer use only.  Your employer will only have to pay for spectacles if the test shows you need special corrective appliances (normally spectacles) that are prescribed for the distance the screen is viewed at. If an ordinary prescription is suitable for your DSE work, your employer does not have to pay for your spectacles.

What legislation applies to eye tests? 

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations Northern Ireland 1992.

For more information on this subject please visit the Display Screen Equipment page

Information to display

Must I display the Health and Safety Law in NI poster or use pocket cards? 

Yes, if you employ one employee or more.  Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations to display the approved poster in a prominent position in each workplace or to provide each worker with a copy of the approved pocket card.  

Must I display the Employer’s Liability Compulsory Insurance certificate?     

You must display a copy of the certificate of insurance where your employees can easily read it.  If it is displayed electronically, employers need to ensure their employees know how and where to find the certificate.

What happens if I do not have employers’ liability insurance?   

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) enforces the law on employers’ liability insurance and HSENI inspectors can check that you have employers’ liability insurance with an approved insurer for at least £5 million. They may ask to see your certificate of insurance and other insurance details.

For more information on this subject please visit the Information you must display page

Accident book

By law, do I need an accident book? 

If you have 10 or more employees it is a legal requirement under the Social Security Administration (NI) Act 1992 and the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 to keep an accident book.  If you have less than 10 employees you can keep accident records in any form you chose, as long as the information is stored in compliance with data protection law. As accident records are considered sensitive data, the personal information involved must not be seen by other members of staff.                                                                                  

Should I record near misses in the accident book? 

Yes, it is good practice.

Where do I get an accident book? 

At HSE Books or any good bookshop.

For more information on this subject please visit the Accident records page

Health and Safety policy

What is a Health and Safety Policy? 

A health and safety policy sets out your general approach and commitment together with the arrangements you have put in place for managing health and safety in your business. It is a unique document that says who does what, when and how.

Does an employer need a Health and safety Policy? 

Yes.  A documented health and safety policy is a legal requirement if you employ five or more people. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is considered useful to do so if, for example, something changes.                                          

If employees are given a copy of the health and safety policy to read, is that sufficient for induction training? 

No, you must check employee’s understanding of the Policy.

Can health and safety training be completed in house? 

Yes, if there is a competent person who can pass on the learning.

For more information please visit the Health and Safety policy page

Risk Assessment

Why do I need to do risk assessments? 

Carrying out a risk assessment can help you protect your workers and your business, as well as help you comply with the law.
A risk assessment is an examination of what in your work can cause harm to people, so that you can decide whether you have taken enough precautions or if you should do more to prevent harm.
The law does not expect you to get rid of all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as reasonably practicable.

How is a risk assessment carried out? 

When carrying out your risk assessment try not to overcomplicate the process. Put simply, the hardest thing about risk assessment is deciding upon the things that can cause harm.  In many organisations, the risks are well known and the necessary control measures are easy to apply. If you are aware of the risks associated in your workplace, check that you have taken reasonable precautions to avoid injury.

How long do I need to keep old risk assessments? 

It would be advisable to keep them for 3 years as employees can take a civil claim within this timeframe.

For more information please visit the Risk assessments page

Fire Safety

As an employer what do I have to do? 

You need to carry out a fire risk assessment and act on the findings. A fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be reduced and to decide the nature of the general fire precautions you need to take to protect people against the fire risks that remain. If you employ five or more people you must record your risk assessment and any significant findings.

What is a fire risk assessment?   

Employers and self-employed people must carry out, or appoint a competent person to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment of the risks of fire to their employees and others who may be affected by their work or business. Those who employ five or more employees must keep a formal record of any significant findings and remedial measures which have, or may need to be taken.

Where can I get help on fire risk assessment? 

Guides have been published by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Once completed, who do I show the fire risk assessment to?  

You will need to consult with your employees and other interested parties, about the findings of the risk assessment and provide adequate training.

How often should a fire drill be carried out?

 It is usually carried out every 6 months but can be more frequent depending on the risk assessment and other factors such as complexity of the building and appointment of new employees. 

Do I have to have a full evacuation? 

Yes

Do I have to test the fire alarm? 

Yes.  The fire alarm should be tested every week and a record of testing kept. 

Do fire doors have to be kept closed? 

Yes.  Fire doors protect enclosures and vertical shafts such as staircases and when closed prevent smoke and flame from spreading.

For more information please visit the fire safety page

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

What is PPE? 

PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health and safety risks at work.  It can include items such as safety helmets and hard hats, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses.

Do employers have to provide PPE?

Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.

Can an employer charge for PPE? 

No charge can be made to any employee for the provision of PPE which is used only at work.

For more information please visit the PPE page

Smoking Policy

What are the laws on smoking in the workplace? 

Smoking legislation states that enclosed or substantially enclosed workplaces and public places must be smoke free.  This means that employers have legal responsibilities to prevent people from smoking in relevant premises at work, as well as in certain workplace vehicles.

What are employers required to do? 

Employers should have a Smoking Policy.  The aims of a smoke-free policy should be to protect staff from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, as well as making sure that employers, smokers, and non-smokers have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities.

Do I have to provide a smoking shelter? 

No. Employers should consult their employees and their representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace, though this has to meet the requirements of the legal ban.  The term “enclosed or substantially enclosed” refers to a place that has a ceiling or roof, with walls (including doors and windows) around at least half the perimeter.

Can we smoke in work vans? 

No

Can we smoke at office doorways?

 If the doorway is more that 50% enclosed it is classed as indoors and smoking would not be permitted.

If we visit someone at home can they smoke? 

Yes it’s their home.  However, if you work from home and a client comes in, you should stop smoking.

Where do I get more information on smoking? 

More information can be obtained from the Environmental Health Officer at your local council.