Starting up a business

Good practice in health and safety is beneficial for your business. It is a legal requirement of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The publication Health and Safety made simple will make it easier for you to comply with the law and manage health and safety in your business. The toolbox link gives detailed advice to help you identify, assess and control common risks in the workplace.

Health and Safety Policy

If you have five or more employees, you must have a written policy. This is the law. 

If you have five or more employees you must have a documented risk assessment. Even if you have less than five, it is still the duty of every employer to consider potential health and safety hazards that may affect anyone who comes into contact with their business activities.

Visit risk assessment advice for detailed guidance.

Even if you are not legally required to have a documented policy, it is recommended as it provides the basis for the management of health and safety. You can download and complete your policy online. The policy should clearly state who does what, when and how. The overall responsibility for health and safety rests with the employer, some health and safety duties can be delegated to managers or supervisors. A policy will only be effective if you and your staff follow it and review it regularly.

You can find more information and tools on Health and Safety Executive's website:

Health and Safety law poster

Employers are required to either display the approved health and safety law poster or to provide each of their staff with the equivalent leaflet.


If your business has employees, you will probably need Employers' Liability Insurance (ELI). If you have no employees, or are a family business and all employees are closely related to you, you may not need it. Employer’s liability insurance will enable you to meet the cost of any compensation for your employees’ injuries or illness as a result of the work they do for you.

Where ELI is required, a current certificate must be readily available where employees and regulators can view it. This includes electronic copies. If you do not display the certificate of insurance or refuse to make it available to regulatory inspectors when they ask, you can be fined up to £1000. You can also be fined up to £2500 for any day which you are without suitable insurance.

Public liability insurance (PLI) is not compulsory but provides cover against claims made by members of the public who have suffered injury or damage to property in connection with your business. It is designed to pay compensation which can include loss of earnings, future loss of earnings and damages awarded to the claimant in addition to your legal cost in defending the claim and the claimants' legal costs that you incur if you are found to be at fault.

Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969: A brief guide for employers.

Competent advice

As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.

Get specialist help with health and safety INDG420

Information, Instruction and Training

Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. Ask your employees what they think about training to make sure it’s relevant and effective. You must provide all employees with clear instructions, information and adequate training in a form that is easy to understand. This includes contractors and self-employed people.

Make sure everyone has information on hazards and risks they may face, measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks, as well as how to follow any emergency procedures.

Keep training records to help identify when refresher training might be needed.

Everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do.

Find out more information on health and safety training: What you need to know.

Consulting with Employees

Law: Under the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (as amended), employers must consult all their employees on health and safety matters.

Consultation involves employers not only giving information to employees but also listening to, and taking account of what they say before making any health and safety decisions and can result in healthier and safer workplaces.

Find out more on INDG232 - Consulting employees on health and safety: A brief guide to the law.

First Aid

Every employer should make an assessment of first-aid needs appropriate to the circumstances of each workplace. In an organisation where the risk assessment identifies a comparatively low risk to health and safety, employers may only need to provide a clearly identified and suitably stocked first-aid container and an appointed person to look after first-aid arrangements and take charge in emergencies. Get advice on first aid at work.

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Approved Code of Practice and guidance Download a free copy INDG214: First aid at work: Your questions answered.

Accident Reporting

Under the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations1979 employers must keep an accident record when a worker has been incapacitated for more than three consecutive days. Incapacitation means that the worker is absent, or is unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work.

The accident book is also a valuable document that organisations can use to record accident information as part of their management of health and safety. It can be used to record details of injuries from accidents at work that employers must report under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). For further information visit the Reporting Accident section on the HSE website.