HEALTH AND SAFETY
It is a legal and personal requirement to protect yourself, colleagues and the general public
from risks to health and safety. It is impossible to remove all risks but quantifying and
controlling risk is the basis of all health and safety work. Risk assessment is the formal
term for doing so. There may be local authority rules on specific activities but the animal
welfare officer is often the only person on the ground. He should expect significant briefing
and training from his local authority before starting work, together with information on
their specific procedures.
Every council officer in the role of dog warden or animal welfare officer, throughout the
UK, has a slightly different job. There will be many common features, for example the
handling of stray dogs, driving vehicles, and dealing with the public, but considerable
local variation in the way these are carried out. The range of functions carried out by
these staff is now large and growing every year, but few staff will do all of them. It is for
these reasons that health and safety legislation is written in such a way that it places a
duty on organisations to assess local needs and take appropriate steps to protect staff
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforce health and safety law in
local authorities. The HSE is also responsible for enforcement where the home is the
place of work.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) sets out general duties which
employers have towards their employees and members of the public. Employers have to
ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare both of their
employees (Section 2) and of any other people who may use (Section 3), or have access
to (Section 4), the workplace. These duties require no more than what good management
would lead employers to do anyway: that is, to look at what the risks are to health and
safety and to take sensible measures to control them. Employees also have a duty to look
after their own health and safety. It is therefore very sensible for animal welfare officers to
be involved in discussions and assessments required to be done under Health and Safety
Legislation, and be fully trained and conversant with these assessments and safe working
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management
Regulations) are more explicit about what employers are required to do to manage health
and safety under the Act. Like the Act, they apply to every work activity.
Under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989, employers
must display a poster or distribute a leaflet to employees setting out basic information on
Health and Safety law. The poster and leaflet “Health and Safety Law - What You Should
Know” are available from HMSO stationers. The boxes in the poster must be completed
accordingly; entering the relevant details, eg, the enforcing authority for the premises.
It is a legal requirement for any organisation employing five or more persons to prepare a
written safety policy. Policies do not have to be complex, but essentially, they should consist
of three parts:
A general statement of intent This should outline, in broad terms, the overall philosophy
in relation to the management of health and safety.
Organisation This outlines the chain of responsibility in terms of health and safety
management and who is responsible to whom and for what. The competent person who
is to assist with compliance with health and safety requirements should also be included.
A management chart, clearly showing the lines of responsibility and accountability in
terms of health and safety management, may be useful.
Arrangements This part of the policy deals with the practical arrangements by which
the policy will be effectively implemented. This may include:
● safety training
● safe systems of work
● safe place of work
● safe plant and equipment
● internal communication/participation
● utilisation of safety committee(s) and safety representatives
● fire safety and prevention
● medical facilities and welfare
● maintenance of records
● accident reporting and investigation
● emergency procedures
● workplace monitoring
Unless employers are themselves competent to carry out health and safety obligations
they must have access to people who are competent. A competent person is someone
who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge of the particular field, to be able
to assist the employer in the discharge of his health and safety duties. Employers can
appoint their employees, or external specialists, to help them fulfil their duties, but they
must take action.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, require the organisation
to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments, in order to assess the risks to
workers and others who may be affected by their work activities. This will enable employers
to identify the measures required to comply with health and safety law by minimising
If the animal welfare officer is required to undertake risk assessments for the local authority
specific training should be provided. Such training should include the method of risk
assessment, the recording of the assessment and action to be taken following the
assessment. This is a particular area where external specialists are likely to be employed.
Animal welfare officers fulfil a relatively specialist role within local authorities, and many of
the risk assessments will be unique to their authority although similar to assessments in
other authorities. Common assessments, applying to many local authority staff could
include working alone, carrying out visits, driving etc. Specialised assessments, where
applicable, could include handling dogs, microchipping, and rabies control.
The HSE leaflet “5 Steps to Risk Assessment”, which is available on request, provides
more information. The HSE publication HSG183 “5 Steps to Risk Assessment - Case
Studies”, available from HMSO stationers, may also offer useful advice.
All animal welfare officers should receive adequate training in health and safety policies
and procedures as soon as they start work or when any new procedure is introduced. A
record should be kept of such training and it should be repeated periodically. Once
trained, an animal welfare officer should be able to carry out his duties safely.
Safe systems of work
All staff must be provided with safe systems of work. Some systems may be verbal, for
instance, where instructions are given to undertake tasks safely. In other cases, where the
task involves a higher level of risk, documented safe working procedures may be required.
Formal safe systems may be required for tasks such as maintenance work, breakdowns,
emergencies and vehicle operations.
Employer’s liability Insurance
Employers must have insurance covering liability for injury or disease suffered by employees
during the course of their employment.
There should be at least one suitably stocked first aid kit at every workplace. Animal welfare
officers should also keep a first aid kit in their vehicles. Tablets and medication should not
be kept in it.
A white cross on a green background should identify all first aid kits. The contents of first
aid kits should be examined frequently and should be restocked as soon as possible after
The number of persons required to be trained in first aid depends primarily on the degree
of risk. Employers must make sure that there is always an appointed person present when
people are at work, if no trained person is available. An appointed person is someone
who is authorised to take charge of the situation (eg, to call an ambulance) if there is a
serious injury or illness. The person will act in the absence of a trained first aider, or where
a first aider is not required, such as in a small non-hazardous work area. Animal welfare
officers working on their own should consider communications using a phone or radio in
their assessments with another member of staff, first aider or appointed person in the
event of an accident or incident with an animal.
As far as possible, accidents at work should be prevented by safe systems of work,
proper instruction and training, by having a safe workplace and by using safe equipment.
If accidents or near misses do occur then they should be investigated, to prevent similar
accidents happening again.
In all cases, details of accidents must be recorded and kept on the premises in an accident
book or similar. This should include the date and method of reporting; the date, time and
place of the event; personal details of those involved and a brief description of the nature
of the event.
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
(RIDDOR), employers have a legal duty to notify certain types of injury, disease and
dangerous occurrence to the Health and Safety Executive. The information enables the
enforcing authorities to identify where and how risks arise and to investigate serious
accidents. They can also help by advising on preventive action to reduce injury, ill-health
and accidental loss.
Employers are required to report:
● major injuries
● accidents resulting in more than three days off work
● dangerous occurrences
All accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences must be reported to the Incident
Contact Centre (ICC) on the correct form as soon as possible after the incident occurring.
If the incident involves someone’s death then it must be reported immediately by telephone
on 0845 3009923.
Dealing with chemicals
Employers have a legal duty to protect employees and anyone else who might be af-
fected by hazardous substances used in the workplace. Under the Control of Substances
Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002, employers must evaluate all substances
that may be harmful to health and decide whether employees and any other people, such
as contractors, visitors and members of the public are, or could be, significantly exposed.
All employees will need to be told about the risks arising from their work, made aware of
what control measures are to be used and what they must do themselves to minimise
their own exposure, eg, by keeping their working area clean and tidy, wearing overalls and
respirators when required.
Lead and asbestos are not covered by COSHH, as they have their own specific regulations.
In relation to manual handling, employers should avoid the need for hazardous manual
handling as far as reasonably practicable. This may be achieved by redesigning the task
or by automating the process. The risk of injury from any hazardous manual handling, that
cannot be avoided, must be assessed.
The risk of injury from hazardous manual handling should be reduced as far as is reasonably
practicable by, for example, the provision of mechanical assistance or other improvements
to the task, the load and the working environment.
The manual handling of animals requires its own set of skills. Most manual handling training
covers the handling of inanimate objects. Injuries have occurred when animals suddenly
lurch off in a different direction when being led, lifted etc. However animal welfare officers
are well placed to have the expertise to overcome these risks, and carry out a proper
assessment of the dangers. Further information on animal handling is given in Chapter 6.
Slips, trips and falls
The most common cause of injuries at work is the slip or trip. Resulting falls can be serious.
They happen in all kinds of businesses, but handling animals that are often strong and
unpredictable can lead to incidents of this nature. Animal welfare officers should assess
the risk in each situation as ground conditions and lighting may be very variable.
Personal protective equipment
The main requirement of the personal protective equipment at Work Regulations 1992 is
that personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be supplied and used at work wherever
there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.
PPE must be supplied by the employer following a risk assessment which requires its
use. It is inevitable that animal welfare officers will be required to use PPE in the course of
handling animals. Officers are responsible for ensuring that their PPE is properly maintained
and worn. PPE includes gloves, hats, goggles, masks, overalls, safety shoes, rabies suits,
and anti-bite gauntlets.
To allow the correct type of PPE to be chosen the different hazards in the workplace need
to be considered carefully. This will enable an assessment to be made of which types of
PPE are suitable to protect against the hazard and for the job to be done. Your supplier
should be able to advise you on the different types of PPE available and its suitability for
different tasks. It may be necessary, in a few particularly difficult cases, to obtain advice
from specialist sources - and of course from the PPE manufacturer.
Employers are required to assess the risks from fire on the premises, in order to determine
what precautions are required.
In order to reduce the risk of fire there should be efficient housekeeping by not allowing
accumulations of waste and by proper waste disposal. To reduce the risk of electrical fire,
electrical installations and portable appliances must be regularly inspected and main-
tained. Smoking, if permitted, must be in designated areas only.
The law requires that all people who carry out electrical work must be competent to do
so. Any electrician carrying out work must have sufficient technical knowledge or experience
to prevent danger or injury. Make sure that people who are working with electricity are
competent to undertake the work. Even simple tasks such as wiring a plug can lead to
danger - ensure that people know what they are doing before they start.
By concentrating on a simple, inexpensive system of examination for visible signs of
damage or faults, most of the electrical risks can be controlled. It is, however, recommended
that the installation is inspected and tested periodically by a competent person. The
Electricity at Work Regulations stipulate that records of inspection and testing must be
Portable appliances are a particular risk as the action of moving may cause damage to
cables and connections. Portable appliances must be regularly tested by a competent
person and labelled with the date and result of the test. The frequency of testing is
governed by a risk assessment, with those appliances which are rarely moved being
tested less frequently. Every appliance should be examined at least annually for signs of
damage and the results recorded. Testing regimes and recording are the responsibility of
Employers have a legal duty, under the Noise at Work Regulations 1989, to reduce the
risk of damage to their employees’ hearing. Employers must have the noise assessed
wherever employees’ exposure might reach one of the ‘Action Levels’ of the Noise at
Work Regulations. Generally speaking, if it is necessary to shout or raise the voice to be
heard by someone two metres away or if employees ears are ringing when finishing work,
action is required.
Controlling noise at source is usually the most cost-effective means of reducing noise
exposure. Ear protection should be considered only as a last resort to control noise
exposure. It should be used as a short-term measure until controls to reduce the noise
levels have been introduced. In some kennels long-term use is necessary to protect staff
in areas where there are inevitably high levels of barking.
In general terms, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
require that equipment provided for use at work is: suitable for the intended use; safe for
use, maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure
this remains the case; used only by people who have received adequate information,
instruction and training; and accompanied by suitable safety measures, such as protective
devices, markings, warnings.
Generally, any equipment which is used by an employee at work is covered, such as
graspers, cages, traps, leads, photocopiers and motor vehicles. If employees provide
their own equipment, it too will be covered by PUWER and employers must ensure it
Working Time Regulations
These regulations require that employers do not force employees to work more than 48
hours a week averaged over 17 weeks, unless they have agreed to do so. Employers cannot
force employees to sign an agreement if they do not wish to do so, and employees cannot
be dismissed for not signing an agreement. A short guide to the Working Time Regulations
is available from the Department of Trade and Industry; see useful contacts at the end of
Night-work is taken as being between 11 pm and 6am for at least three hours a night and
workers should not be working more than eight hours a day on average. Night-workers
are entitled to a free health assessment prior to starting work at night and at regular
intervals whilst continuing to work nights, but there is no compulsion for the workers to
take this up.
Workers are entitled to 11 hours' rest between each working day and are entitled to one
whole day off a week. These days off are in addition to annual holidays.
Workers are entitled to a break of at least 20 minutes if they work for more than six hours.
This break must be allowed during the working period, not just at the end and is not in
addition to a lunch break.
There are additional requirements in respect of any Officer under 18.
Information for employees
Under the health and safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 employers
must consult all non-union employees in good time on matters relating to their health and
safety at work. safety representatives and trade union representatives must also be