What is an Approved Code of Practice?
Every year thousands of avoidable accidents occur in the workplace, with injuries, ailments and work-related health issues often having a debilitating affect on workers and their families. There are a wide variety of workplaces that expose people to all manner of risks and can put an assortment of strains on your health and body.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 lays out a set of general principles that employers and employees should adhere to, in order to maintain health, safety and welfare in the workplace. However, supplementary material known as ACoPs or Approved Codes of Practice are documents containing more explicit advice and practical guidance as to how best to comply with the law.
What information do ACoPs contain?
They contain examples of good practice, preferred or recommended methods to comply with the law and explanations of the law, with references to sources that will help all those with a duty of care to fulfill their legal obligations.
The ACoP that delivers guidance on complying with the basic duties of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 aims to help employers understand their legal duties regarding a range of workplace issues including ventilation, cleanliness, workstations, lighting and temperature.
There are also ACoPs that are specific to particular industries, practices or types of premises – usually those that are of a high risk nature such as construction, diving or working with asbestos.
Who are ACoPs for?
ACoPs are for anyone with a duty of care in the workplace such as employers, managers and specific duty holders for health and safety. This includes those who are self-employed. It explains their legal duties clearly, how to assess and manage potentially hazardous situations and gives examples of preventive steps that can be taken in order to minimise risk.
Legal status of ACoPs
ACoPs do not have the same legal powers as regulations and following the guidance set out in these documents is not compulsory. Not complying with ACoPs is not an offence in itself as the guidance does not necessarily contain the only acceptable methods of reaching the standard of safety required.
However, these codes do have a special legal status. Employers or those with a duty of care in the workplace who fail to comply with health and safety laws could be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authority law enforcement officers. Those that are prosecuted and found to have not followed an Approved Code of Practice are likely to be found at fault by the courts as this can be used as evidence of guilt, unless the employer can prove they have used an alternative and equally effective method to comply with the law.
If the advice in an ACoP has been followed, this will be considered enough to demonstrate compliance with the law with regard to the matters detailed in the code.
Where can I find ACoPs?
For the main areas of health and safety law, specific ACoPs can be found on the HSE website.
If you have concerns about an ACoP and your place of work, contact us now for legal advice.