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Your Rights to a Secure Working Environment

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 12 Apr 2017 | comments*Discuss
Secure Working Environment Duties Health

Every worker has a right to a secure working environment. Employers should identify any threat to this security and introduce measures that eliminate or control the risks.

The Legal Position

The right for workers to have a secure working environment is enshrined in the law. The basis of this law is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Act contains a set of duties that employers should have towards staff and the general public. The Act also says that employees have duties to each other and themselves.

What this means is that employers and workers must both keep working environments secure. They must look at risks and take action to deal with them.


The right to a secure working environment comes with a qualification, however. This states that a principle of reasonable practicality governs all health and safety duties.

A proposal to create a secure working environment may be impractical to put in place, for example. Or the cost of a proposal may far outweigh any benefit. If this type of situation applies, an employer may reasonably refuse to take action.

Speak to Employer

Under the law, employers and employees have a duty to maintain a secure working environment. An employee who spots a health and safety problem at work should therefore speak to his or her employer first. An employer may choose to ignore a concern raised by a member of staff. When this happens, there are further options to consider.

Trade Unions

One role of Trade Unions is to monitor health and safety at work. If there are problems, trade union representatives can act on behalf of workers and ask employers to provide solutions.

This does not mean that workers must join a trade union to ensure a secure working environment, as the law requires employers to follow health and safety procedure. Trade unions, however, can help to ensure workplace safety.


An employer may unreasonably refuse to make a workplace secure. There may also be no trade union in the workplace to assist. If so, a worker can turn to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE is responsible for the following types of workplace:

  • Nuclear installations
  • Government premises
  • Nursing homes, hospitals, colleges and schools
  • Offshore installations
  • Building sites and factories
  • Utility systems such as electricity, water and gas
  • Fairgrounds, farms and mines

Environmental Health

Another organisation that may be able to help is the local authority environmental health department. These have responsibility for investigating health and safety problems at:

  • Hotels, restaurants and leisure premises
  • Shops and offices
  • Care homes and sheltered accommodation
  • Clubs and pubs
  • Private museums
  • Playgroups and nurseries
  • Places of worship

Members of the Public

It is not just employees who may encounter problems with working environments. Members of the public may believe that a working area is unsafe. They may identify dangers to employees or to visitors.

In the first instance, a member of the public with health and safety concerns should contact the employer. If this fails, the next step is to contact HSE or the local authority environmental health department as appropriate.

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we moved into new premises in august last year we were promised heating a kitchen and rest room. it is now april we have an outside toilet and cold tap no running hot water to wash hands or utensils just a kettle is this acceptable?
jayjay - 12-Apr-17 @ 9:16 PM
I work in a community pharmacy with a flat above it.(belonging to the pharmacy). The tenants in the flat have a cat with fleas. We have fleas coming into the dispensary. I am being repeatedly bitten and I am allergic to insect bites so this is a big problem for me. Although some of my colleagues have been bitten occasionally it doesn't present them with the same difficulties as me. Having contacted our head office, repeatedly over the last year they are making some minor attempts to deal with this problem, but it is has been going on for over a year now and I am really fed up of suffering. I have been bitten over 20 times in the last 3 days. I now want to refuse to go into work until they sort out the problem. Where do I stand. I feel it is unacceptable to work in these conditions.
Jo - 30-Oct-13 @ 8:21 PM
I am being disciplined for being off sick 3 times in a 12 month rolling period, my question is what is the employers care of duty to towards me working alongside fellow workers who insist on coming to work when they are ill thus spreading their germs infecting others around them.....ie: Me ? with Illnesses like Viruses and 24hr Flu etc.....and what is my care of duty to fellow workers when I myself am ill ?
Davie - 13-Jul-13 @ 3:03 PM
Hi, firstly should an employer divulge any of my partners details to me? Does anyone know if there is a temperature that is unacceptable by law that is set at which is unacceptable to expect an employee to be working in,with out air conditioning or suitable ventilation making the work environment comfortable,especially when at times using dangerous machinery? Also how many employees that should be left in a work environment for it to function appropriately?? How many hours without lunch or an adequate break?? Please let me know, im desperate to get the man at the top dictating and getting the huge salary, claiming all employees are well looked after, a great team work ethic "not" and claims when a partner calls to express concerns, deems them as inadequate for not speaking out for themselves blatantly disregarding the employees personality and temperament, please help me regards Wendy MAT
Wendy - 8-Jul-13 @ 11:41 AM
I work in a building that is 100yrs old, I myself have worked here for over 10yrs so I know the building inside and out. I am also the manager so have H&S responsibilitys.the building has had some major structual issues(repairs been done etc) But the repairs are just the sort to make it safeer for now. I believe that the building is on the verge of collapse. on side of the building is showing signs of it subsideing. from 3rd floor to the celler theres is major cracks that are more them 2/3inh wide and you can following them from floor to ceiling the floors are no longer meeting the skirting boards(i even stuck a door wedge between floor/skirting board and this FELL down into the gap within 2weeks) all window frames seem so be drooping and door frames have cracks all to the joints aswell as not closing properly. the most recent issue is the STAIRS (used every day) there is a gap that runs along the skirting board that is wide enough to fit a door wedge right in aswell as the stairs and and rail becoming loose. again the carpets no longer fit propely. I feel that the people I have to deal with about these issues are not taking it serious. A good example I have had happen I felt the vibration like a massive truck was going past(none do) went in celler to check it out and a support beam had SLIPPED from its post. as recent as JAN 2013 all the cracks are ouside to the building aswell.i am also all of a sudden having trouble with the plumbing(unused shower and dark mucky smelly water staring coming up the plug hole.I and my staff we also left without the use of a toliet for a WEEK. this is not right I dont feel safe going to work. but im the manager so have no choice. who can I go to if the people I deal with are not listening
clairepitt - 7-Mar-13 @ 6:38 PM
My niece has worked for a nusery for the past three years she was diagnosed with at the age of six with severe learning difficulties and was given D.L.A the nursery has been taken over the previos owners helped her get the qaulification level 1 and level 2 she has been asked in writing to go for a disaplinary interview tomorrow she asked if she could be accompanied by myself due to her learning difficulties they refused I spoke to them on the phone and explained the severity of her difficulties and they said they didnt know they thought she was dislexic is she entitled to have someone to represent her
micky - 20-Feb-13 @ 1:00 PM
I work for a small GP surgery, on thursday afternoon's the practice is contracted to stay open from 12.30-6.30 with one member of reception staff only on the premises, with no other staff and no clinical staff present. The darker nights are now a source of nervousness for the girl's here, and we are also expected to lock up at the end of the day on our own. The surgery is in a high crime area and we all feel vulnerable. The practice manager says theres nothing that can be done about it. Surely we have some rights? Other local surgeries have receptionists who refuse point blank to work alone at any time, and always have two members of staff at all times. We are told to 'get on with it, there is no choice' - we feel our safety should be a priority. Can we insist on having two staff members at all times?
EllaRaven - 6-Nov-12 @ 6:21 PM
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