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Health and safety at work

Sensible health and safety risk management makes good business sense and the law recognises that businesses and organisations who create risks, are best placed to manage them.

Orkney Islands Council is responsible for the regulation and enforcement of health and safety law at a number of premises throughout Orkney. You can find out below how we go about this and also some sources of advice and guidance for employers, employees and the public.

Health and safety enforcement and regulation

In the UK, the enforcement of health and safety at work law is split between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who work country wide and individual local authorities who work within the boundary of their local authority (council) area. The division of responsibility is generally on the basis of the main business activity at the workplace and is set out in the Health and Safety Enforcing Authority Regulations 1998. This means officers from Orkney islands Council may visit workplaces throughout Orkney to see how employers are complying with health and safety law. Officers may offer advice and also have powers to deal with issues of concern. If you are not sure whether a premises is regulated by the HSE or Orkney Islands Council, you can email environmental health for advice.

Health and safety duties

All employers have health and safety duties to their employees, non employees affected by their work activities and also people to whom they rent out premises as a landlord. Employees also have health and safety duties including to look after themselves while at work, to cooperate with their employer and to look after others affected by their work. These duties are in addition to other requirements in law such as planning, food hygiene, building standards or tax.

Advice and guidance

Fortunately the law recognises that employers who create health and safety risks are best placed to identify what they need to do in order to manage those risks to an acceptable level and there is a huge amount of sensible guidance available. A good starting point is the Health and Safety Executive website HSE: Information about health and safety at work which has lots of practical information on a range of health and safety topics and is relevant to all types of business, large and small.

Health and safety myths

There are a lot of myths about health and safety; if in doubt remember that good health and safety management is largely about identifying and managing genuine risks to health and safety, and the law does not require you to identity and manage every possible risk.

Common sense is key and the health and safety executive website can help you identify fact from fiction when it comes to some common health and safety myths.

Council priorities for the year

The days of the council “inspecting” every workplace have long gone. Instead we are required to target our resources towards the areas of greatest risk. This is done using national and local information, and is set out in our health and safety service intervention plan.

Key information and advice on priority topics

  • Asbestos – all employers have a duty to know where any asbestos is within their buildings and to manage it appropriately. There is a lot of guidance on the HSE website on how to comply with this duty Asbestos - HSE
  • Legionnaires disease  is a particular hazard in some industries including businesses with cooling towers, showers, hot tubs and spa pools. A UK wide code of practice called L8 sets out what can be done to achieve compliance with the law and reduce the risk. Further guidance is also available on the HSE website Legionella and legionnaires' disease - HSE If your business operates a cooling tower or evaporative condenser then it must be registered with the Council
  • A new British Standard BS 14200:2023 has been published on planned preventative maintenance and this will be particularly relevant for any business that operates machinery.  The standard is a priced publication available from the British Standards Institution
  • Inflatable amusement devices (bouncy castles and similar structures) are popular but need to be managed correctly, especially in the Orkney weather. There is important information for operators of bouncy castles and play inflatables    and sealed air inflatables    on the HSE website
  • Following a serious accident in another part of Scotland, health and safety guidance has been issued for mobile caterers by the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland
  • Use of electricity in hospitality settings is another priority and there is plenty of information on the HSE website including information on periodic inspection of fixed electrical systems and portable appliances
  • Providing certain leisure activities  as a business activity may need a licence from the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority. You can check what activities need to be licenced at
  • Mental health is equally important in the workplace and there are some useful resources provided on the working minds website.  This website also has information on a range of other health and safety topics such as asbestos, respirable silica and resources for farmers.

Notifying the council

In health and safety terms there are a few things which employers need to inform the council about.

Getting permission from the council

There are very few things where, in terms of workplace health and safety,  you need the council’s permission to carry them out. As a regulator of health and safety law the council cannot provide or withhold consent for activities to take place, however, please note this is separate to any permission you may need from the council as the land owner   or Licensing Authority Licences (

Enforcement action

The council has a range of powers to assist duty holders to comply with the law. This ranges to offering advice and guidance through to enforcement powers. Our enforcement  General Enforcement Policy ( policy sets out the general approaches we take to enforcement

Regulatory challenge panel

If you are not satisfied with the way the council has dealt with something in its role of a health and safety regulator, then you are welcome to complain using the council’s usual complaint process as set out on the council website. Additionally, if you believe the council has asked you to go beyond what the law requires to control a health and safety risk, then you may wish to refer the matter to the independent regulatory challenge panel The Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel (


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