Health and safety as a sole trader and self employed

Health and safety policies are statutory for any businesses that employ five or more people; however, this doesn’t mean that sole traders and the self-employed should just forget about health and safety at work. 

By having a set of health and safety documents in place, it helps to keep you, your clients and others around you safe.

As a sole trader, you will still need to consider health and safety aspects that pose a threat to yourself and others.

Understanding what the risks are and the level of hazard they present is key in making sure your workplace is as safe as possible.

What does ‘self-employed’ mean?

In regard to the health and safety act, ‘self-employed’ means that you work for yourself and are not under a contracted employment.

Whether you are a sole trader or self-employed and employ others, the health and safety law must be followed.

This is a complex area and HMRC have produced employment status guidance.

The health and safety law applies if:

  • you are an employer
  • your work activity is specifically mentioned in the regulations, this includes work in construction, agriculture, railways or work with gas, asbestos or genetically modified organisms
  • your work activity poses a risk to the health and safety of anyone else

Do you create risk to others?

Creating a risk to others refers to a client, a co-worker or a member of the public being injured or harmed by your work activities.

As a sole trader, you will most likely know whether your daily work activities pose a risk to yourself or others and you will be the judge of it.

Take a look at the daily activities that you carry out as a self-employed sole trader and ask yourself if they may be a risk to the health and safety of others.

It’s also important to take a look at your work activities and how they may affect others. Does your working environment pose a threat? If you work in a garage for example, do people have access to certain hazardous tools or materials?

As a tradesperson, you are most likely working with powerful tool. These may cause a risk to others and could fall over, burn or crush others.

If yes, then your work activities most likely do pose a risk threat and therefore the health and safety law will apply to you.

Do you need a risk assessment if you are self-employed?

Since October 2015, the law states that if your work does not pose a risk to others, then the health and safety law doesn’t apply to you. This means that you must be absolutely clear that your work has no potential threats or hazards attached to it.

Do sole-traders and small businesses need a health and safety policy?

Although not mandatory for businesses with under 5 employees, a health and safety policy sets out the risk associated with your work and how to deal with them. Its purpose is to detail all areas of the potential risk and make your employees, yourself and the public aware of any potential hazards. For example, if you or your staff work with ladders, it may be part of your policy that all staff should be qualified and have a good knowledge of working from height.

What about health and safety schemes such as CHAS or SSIP?

For any small business or sole trader, being members of these schemes proves to clients that you have a secure knowledge of your work and the risks it may cause. It will really help your grow your business, in instances when you may want to work with government departments or other large enterprises.

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