Last reviewed 11 September 2020
It is a well-known requirement that employers and/or duty holders must, to ensure the health and safety of employees and others, provide adequate information, instruction and training to relevant stakeholders, reports Mike Sopp.
Such a requirement is enshrined in primary and secondary legislation relating to health and safety, the main purpose being to ensure the health and safety of employees, visitors, and contractors alike by helping to control risks through appropriate behaviours.
However, to ensure the employer or duty holder is meeting their legal obligations, thought needs to be given as to what is meant by the provision of information, instruction, and training and how the requirements can be best met.
Legal requirements for training
Under s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, employers have a duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.
This duty requires the employer to provide “such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees”.
Section 3 requires the employer “to give to persons (not being his employees) who may be affected by the way in which he conducts his undertaking the prescribed information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertaking as might affect their health or safety”.
These general duties are supported further by requirements contained in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (both of which are based upon the same EU Directive).
In essence, they require the employer or responsible person to provide employees with comprehensible and relevant information on the risks to their health and safety and the preventive and protective measures to be implemented to control those risks.
They further require employees to be provided with adequate training, while non-employees must be provided with comprehensible information and appropriate instruction in relation to risks and their control.
As well as the generic requirements under the primary legislation, numerous regulations also contain more specific requirements including the:
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (reg. 12)
Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (reg. 10)
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (regs. 8 and 9)
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (reg. 9)
Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992.
Definitions and purpose of training
It can be seen that the provision of information, instruction and training is an integral and key component of both legislative requirements and good health and safety management practice.
There are no legal definitions given for information, instruction and training, but clarification on what each means can be sought from regulations, various Codes of Practice and guidance documents (current and withdrawn).
The (withdrawn) guidance published for the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 states that information would include “information about hazards at the workplace and methods of avoiding them”.
This is further expanded upon in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which state that information to be provided includes the risks to employees’ health and safety identified by the assessment and the preventive and protective measures required to control those risks.
The guidance document to the 1974 Act mentioned above then suggests that it might also include statutory information such as Approved Codes of Practice and HSE guidance notes as well as non-official information from trade associations or suppliers of machinery. Information may also include warning signs and notices.
Instruction and training tend to be closely linked. The guidance to the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 notes that “health and safety training might include such things as instruction in safety and emergency procedures such as fire drills and first aid”.
This is reflected in official guidance, for example to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which details certain specific instructions that may need to be given to those with delegated tasks such as fire evacuation procedures.
Instructions may be written into safe systems of work, procedural documents, assignment instructions or even permit-to-work systems.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, training means “helping people to learn how to do something, telling people what they should or should not do, or simply giving them information. Training isn’t just about formal ‘classroom’ courses”.
Training can therefore range from formal classroom-based qualifications to tool-box-talks in the workplace and is a means of providing adequate information and instruction.
In essence, information, instruction and training have a similar goal, this being to ensure that individuals in the workplace are provided with sufficient knowledge to enable them to behave in a certain manner and undertake activities in a manner to ensure their own health and safety and that of others.
To achieve this goal, it is essential that the most appropriate information, instruction, and training is provided in an appropriate manner to relevant stakeholders.
Risk assessment will be the key driver for training and instruction, as this will identify the hazards of the workplace in general as well as particular work activities, analyse the risks involved and, based upon legislative and best practice requirements, identify the necessary risk control measures including the information, instruction and training required and by whom.
The three requirements should not be looked at in isolation, rather they are all interconnected. From the definitions above, it can be deduced that information must be provided on the:
general hazards and risks within the workplace
hazards and risks affecting specific tasks or operations
risk control measures to be used to eliminate/reduce these risks
measures to be taken in an emergency.
The first stage is to determine who requires the information and where the information required can be obtained. As already alluded to, this could be from official guidance documents from the HSE, manufacturers’ or suppliers’ information, trade association guidance, informal or formal qualifications, best practice from other notable organisations such as the British Standards Institution and internal documents such as the risk assessment.
Having determined what information is required, it should then be determined how this information is to be made known and communicated to the relevant persons.
This could be by a combination of methods, as alluded to above, including safe systems of work, signs, notices, or even specific training (theoretical or practical).
When doing so, consideration must be given to those who are receiving the information and any likely barriers to this, including language difficulties, visual impairments, age etc.
As a simple example, if the risk assessment indicates that the workplace activity requires the use of personal protective equipment, the employer will need to consider a number of factors.
Reference will need to be made to reg. 9 of the Personal Protective Equipment and Work Regulations 1992 and associated guidance. Like other regulations it requires information, instruction and training to be provided. Guidance then states that theoretical training should cover:
an explanation of the risks present and why personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed (information)
the operation, performance and limitations of the equipment (information)
instructions on the selection, use and storage of PPE
recognising defects in PPE and arrangements for reporting loss or defects (information) .
explanation of written operating procedures, such as permits-to-work involving PPE (instruction).
This can be supported by practical training on the actual use of the PPE, its maintenance and inspection as well as “instruction in the safe storage of equipment”.
In support, the guidance to the regulations notes that to enforce the safe use of PPE safety signs can be used. In this case it is also worth noting that reg. 5 of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 require the employer to ensure that:
comprehensible and relevant information on the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs is provided to each employee
each employee receives suitable and sufficient instruction and training in the meaning of safety signs and the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs.
Information, instruction and training are key risk control measures.
Employers need to recognise that the provision of such is a legal requirement.
A suitable and sufficient risk assessment will assist in identifying and determining the need for information, instruction or training.
The employer should keep a record of any such information, instruction or training given.
Information, instruction, and training should be reviewed and regularly updated, for example when significant change occurs or it is no longer valid.