The health and safety toolbox: How to control risks at work

This page provides helpful areas of advice, which apply to all workplaces.


You need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers and provide a safe working environment. Health and safety management should be a straightforward part of managing your business as a whole. It invovles practical steps that protect people from harm and at the same time protect the furture success of your business.

How to manage health and safety

When managing health and safety you need to do a risk assessment to find out about risks in your workplace, put sensible measures in place to control them, and make sure they stay controlled. Your health and safety policy clearly sets out how you manage health and safety in your workplace by defining who does what; and when and how they do it.

Your organisation

This covers issues that can affect your workers and may need action at an organisational level. Factors in your workplace can have an impact, either because of the nature of the work or the way it is managed. This relates to hazards and health issues you may need to assess and take action to deal with - they could be included in your health and safety policy.

Your workers

Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. As an employer, giving your workers the right knowledge and skills is not only a legal duty but also can contribute to the success of your business. Employers must provide free health and safety training and personal protective equipment where it is needed.

Your workplace

You must provide a safe and healthy environment for all your employees and take their welfare, needs into account. However, this doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming. this applies to a very wide range of workplaces, not only factories, shops and offices but also, for example, schools, hospitals, hotels and places of entertainment.


Choose whatever topics are relevant to your workplace:

Display Screeen Equipment (DSE)

Using a computer or other kinds of DSE can give rise to back problems, repetitive strain injury or other musculoskeletal disorders. They can be caused by poor design of work stations (and associated equipment such as chairs), insufficient space, lack of training or not taking breaks from dispaly screen work. Work with a screen does not cause eye damage, but many users experience temporary eye strain or stress.

See our topic page on Display Screen Equipment

Electrical Safety

Electricity can kill and non-fatal shocks can cause severe and permanent injury. Thoses using electricity may not be the only ones at risk. Poor electrical installations and faulty electrical appliances can lead to fires which can also result in death or injury to others. You need to make sure electrical equipment is in good working order and that it is suitable for the working environment. 

See our topic page on Electrical Safety

Fire Safety

Most fires are preventable. The wide variety of flammable substances found in the workplace ranges from the obvious, for example, heating fuel, petrol, paint thinners and welding gases to the less obvious, for example, packaging materials, dusts from wood, flour and sugar. For a fire to start it needs fuel, air and a source of ignition. Controlling these can prevent fires.

See our topic page on Fire Safety

Gas Safety

There is a danger of fire, explosion, gas leaks and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from gas appliances and the gas supply itself if they are not properly installed and maintained.

See our topic page on Gas Safety.

Harmful substances

These can include chemicals that people make or work with and also dust, fume and bacteria which can be present in the workplace. Exposure can happen by breathing them in, contact with the skin, splashing them into the yes or swallowing them. Exposure needs to be prevented or properly controlled.

See our topic page on COSHH

Machinery, plant and equipment

Work equipment covers machinery, machine tools, office machines, lifting equipment, hand tools, ladders and pressure washers. Accidents invloving work equipment can be very serious, even fatal. Employers should consider not only how their workers use machinery but how they ensure that they have adequate maintenance arrangements in place to make sure it remains safe to use.

See our topic page on work equipment and machinery

Manual handling

Manual handling is transporting or supporting loads by hand or using bodily force. Many people hurt their back, arms, hands or feet lifting everyday loads, not just when the load is too heavy. Cumulative damage can build up over time causing pain and discomfort. Most cases can be avoided by providing suitable lifting equipment that is regularly maintained, together with relevant training on both manual handling and using equipment safely.

See our topic page on Manual Handling

Mental Well-being

Work can have negative effects on employees' mental health particularly in the form of stress. Stress at work can be tackled in the same way as any other risk to health - by identifying the hazards, assessing who is at risk and the level of risk, deciding how to manage the risk and putting the plans into action. Benefits to tackling stress in your organisation can include increased productivity and efficiency, lower staff turnover and sickness absence and increased morale.

See our topic page on Mental Well-being at work


High levels of noise at work can cause hearing damage. A little damage happens every time it is noisy, gradually building up to serious harm. Young people can be damaged just as easily as the old. 

see our topic page on Noise

Personal Protective Equipment

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health and safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harness. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

See our topic page on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


All manner of radiation types are used in a diverse range of industrial, medical, research and communications applications. Some of these applications cause harmful exposure risks that must be effectively controlled. Working outdoors also carries the risk of UV radiation (i.e. from the sun).

See our topic page on Radiation 

Slips and Trips

The most common cause of injuries at work is the slip and trip. Resulting falls can be dangerous and can happen in all kinds of businesses. This is a particularly important subject if members of the public use your premises. Effective solutions are often simple, cheap and lead to other benefits.

See our topic page on Slips and Trips


Vibration from work from tools and equipment can damage the hands and arms or users causing 'hand-arm vibration syndrome' which is a painful and irreversible condition. Whole-body vibration can also be caused by standing on the platform of a vehicle or machine, so vibration passes into the operator through their feet.

See our topic page on Vibration

Working at height

Falls from heights at work remain one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. One of the main causes is falls from ladders. To help prevent falls from height make sure your workers are properly trained and supervised, have the right equipment and know how to use it safely.

See our topic page on Falls from Heights

Working in confined spaces

A confined space is one which is both enclosed and has a reasonably foreseeable risk to workers of fire, explosion, asphyxiation or drowning. It may be small and restrictive for the worker or it could be far larger such as a grain storage silo with hundreds of cubic metre capacity.

See our topic page on Confined Spaces

Workplace transport

Being struck or run over by moving vehicles, falling from vehicles, or vehicles over-turning are the most common causes of workplace accidents. Vehicles operating in the workplace include cars, vans, lift trucks, heavy goods vehicles, dumpers, tractors and specialised vehicles or plant.

See our topic page on Workplace Transport