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New Safety Rules For The Self-Employed

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Over the last 20 years, there has been a large increase in the number of people who are self-employed and do not work under a contract of employment for a company or another person.

The government, in its drive to encourage business growth and reduce unnecessary red tape, has from 1st October 2015 changed the application of section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for self-employed persons. As a consequence, it is estimated that health and safety law will no longer apply to 1.7 million self-employed people who are in low-risk occupations.

Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a legal obligation on self-employed persons to undertake their work so as to ensure that other people are not exposed to risks to their safety.

Section 1 of the Deregulation Act 2015 has changed the law so that section 3(2) no longer applies to all self-employed persons and now only applies to self-employed people doing a prescribed work.

The descriptions of a prescribed work are contained in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015. The prescribed work is: gas, railways, work with asbestos, construction and agriculture (including forestry). These types of work have been designated prescribed work because of the high number of accidents each year and therefore health and safety law will continue to apply to them.

However, even if a self-employed person’s work is not in the list of prescribed work they are still required to consider, possibly though doing a risk assessment, whether the work they are doing creates a risk of another person suffering an injury. If there is a risk of another person being harmed by their work then health and safety law will still apply to them. For instance, if they are working with chemicals, such as bleach, and there is a risk of a member of the public being injured, then section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act will still apply to them.

Also, if the self-employed person employs people to work for their business then health and safety law will apply, even if they are not doing a prescribed work because the change to the law applies only to people who are self-employed and do not employ people to work for them.

Consequently, the change to the safety laws will in practice apply only to self-employed persons who are in low-risk occupations and who do not employ any people in their business.

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