Health and Safety and the Self-employed Person


2 mins

Posted on 01 Oct 2015

The self-employed person can be found in many different sectors ranging from consultants in office to cleaners, carers and construction workers. 

Office for National Statistics on the self –employed reveal that:

  • Self-employment is higher than at any point over the past 40 years
  • There has been a rise in total employment since 2008 predominantly among the self-employed
  • The rise is predominately down to fewer people leaving self-employment than in the past
  • The number of over 65s who are self-employed has more than doubled in the past 5 years to reach nearly half a million
  • Self-employed workers tend to be older than employees and are more likely to work higher (over 45) or lower (8 or less) hours
  • The number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate than the number of men (although men still dominate self employment)
  • The most common roles are working in construction and taxi driving and in recent years there have been increases in management consultants
  • Across the European Union the UK has had the third largest percentage rise in self-employment since 2009.
  • Depending on the work activity, the inherent hazards in any work undertaken by a self-employed person can range from negligible, low to very high. Changes have been made to the health and safety obligations for self-employed persons, following recommendations by Professor Ragnar E Löfstedt in his report Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation, written 4 years ago in November 2011.

    Professor Löfstedt recommended exempting the self-employed person from health and safety laws where their work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others. His recommendation has now been implemented with effect from 1st October 2015 by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015.

    Health and safety law still applies if the self-employed person’s work poses a potential risk of harm to others. These include the following activities:

    • Agriculture (including forestry)
  • Any work with asbestos. 
  • Any work which is carried out on a construction site. 
  • Any activity to which the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998(4) apply. 
  • Any work with Genetically modified organisms
  • Railways.
  • If a self-employed person employs other workers then health and safety laws still apply.

    Further information can be found on the HSE website.

    The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.