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A recent incident where a chef died while working in a commercial kitchen has brought into focus what an employer should do to protect the occupational health of his employees while they are at work.

In this case, the chef who had asthma, suffered an asthma attack at work which unfortunately led to cardiac arrest and then death.  Had there been a Salbutamol inhaler available this could have prevented her death. Normally medicines like inhalers are not available for general use by employers but a campaign is underway to try and exempt employers so that they can keep inhalers. An exemption has already been made where schools can keep stocks of inhalers.

First aid

In terms of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981  an employer has to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to enable first aid to be given to his employees who are injured or fall ill at work.  In order to fulfil their duties under the regulations an employer has to make a risk assessment to work out the particular first aid requirements for his business. 

Employer’s duty of care to protect occupational health

Many regulations apply to employers to protect the health and safety of employees at work. In general terms an employer must:

  • Provide a safe place of work;
  • Safe work equipment;
  • Prevent risks to health;
  • Ensure safe working practices are set up and followed;
  • Make sure that all materials are handled, stored and used safely;
  • Tell employees about any potential hazards arising from the work employees have to do.

Again, to inform an employer how they should comply with all of these duties a proper risk assessment must be carried out.

Health checks

There is no general duty on an employer to have their employees’ health checked on a regular basis. In some jobs, though, for example work in the emergency services, there is a requirement for regular check-ups. 

Health conditions notified or brought to the attention of the employer

If an employer becomes aware that an employee has a health problem, for example after an accident at work, then the employer must take account of this. The employer must carry out a risk assessment to check and see whether the employee can still carry out their work safely and if not must adapt the employee’s duties to take account of the particular health condition. If the employer fails to do this and the condition gets worse, then the employer can be liable.

Equality Act 2010

Where an employee is disabled either at the start of his or her job or becomes disabled while working for the employer, the employer has duties under the Act to make such adaptations to the employee’s work to accommodate his or her disability. Again, if the employer fails to do so they can become liable to a claim for discrimination under the Act .

Occupational stress

This is becoming increasingly more common. The general rule is that until the stress is brought to the employer’s attention, they aren’t liable, but there can be exceptions. Once the employer knows about it, they must adapt the employee’s duties otherwise they may be liable if the stress gets worse.

How we can help

If you have sustained an injury in an accident and you think you may have a claim, please contact us to discuss the matter on 0800 988 8082 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you right away.

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