All employers within the UK have a responsibility to make sure that they provide a safe environment for their workers.
The government have provided various guidelines and regulations for employers to follow.
According to the government, all employers should adhere to their duty of care in the work place by carrying out risk assessments in order to highlight potential hazards.
This risk assessment is either to be conducted either by one of the owners (if a small business) or, in a larger firm, it should be carried out by a member of staff, specifically trained in health and safety.
When a business employs five or more people, they must keep an official record of the findings of the risk assessment, as well as producing a clear, formal health and safety policy.
Employers should make sure that all workplaces are properly ventilated with fresh, clean air, and should keep temperatures at a comfortable level, at least 16 degrees centigrade.
Workplaces should be well lit in order to allow workers to move around safely, and any equipment used should be cleaned regularly.
There should be enough space for employees to work within, with at least 11 cubic metres per person.
Any potential falls or dangerous substances should be protected, and items likely to fall and cause damage should be properly stored away.
Employers should, if necessary, provide adequate washing facilities as well as clean drinking water.
Openable doors, windows, and safety devices should be fitted and, if necessary, space for employees to change and store their own clothes.
Areas should be set aside for breaks, and for eating food, as well as facilities for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Employers should ensure that workers receive appropriate rest breaks during the working day, as well as the correct holiday entitlement.
The safety of workers who work off-site is still the responsibility of the employer, and care should be taken in order to ensure their health and safety.
Employees too have responsibilities for ensuring their own safety. If you are asked to perform a task in an unsafe environment you have a right to refuse, without fear of being disciplined by your employer.
If you feel that your employer is not meeting their responsibilities, you should approach them first. A safety representative or trade union official will be able to help you with this. If all other avenues have been exhausted then you should report your employer to the Health and Safety executive or environmental health department of you local authority.
If you are sacked for refusing towork in an unsafe environment then you can potentially claim unfair dismissal at an Employment Tribunal.