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​​Self-employed to be exempt from health and safety law?

It ain’t necessarily so…


The HSE have announced a change in the law, whereby some categories of the self-employed will be exempt from UK health and safety legislation from 1st October 2015.

This change follows the Löfstedt Review in 2011, whereby the Government sought to relieve the burden and bureaucracy of health and safety law on businesses and organisations where possible. One of the recommendations from the Review was that the self-employed should be exempt from UK health and safety legislation as long as their activities caused no risk of injury or ill-health to other workers or to the public.

And there lies the crux. While unnecessary over-burdening in terms of health and safety compliance is to be broadly welcomed, there may be some confusion over what activities undertaken by the self-employed fall into the categories of  ‘causing no risk’ and ‘causing risk’ to others. The HSE have taken measures to try to explain the differences, specifically aligned around the:

  • working environment (e.g. does the self-employed person work in a workshop that contains some potentially hazardous processes and that is visited by members of the public);
  • equipment, materials and substances used (e.g. is there any hazardous machinery, hazardous substances or materials that the self-employed person uses that could cause harm to others.


The HSE have advised that the self-employed will not be exempt if they work in certain high risk areas, specifically Agriculture, Construction, Gas, Railways, Asbestos and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). However, other self-employed people will need to assess whether their working activities could cause harm to others – and others could mean other workers, members of the public or even family members.

Advice can be found on the HSE website  but the assessment WILL need to be taken about those potential risks, and many self-employed people may need further advice and reassurance about whether they are exempt or not.