Last week I wrote about your duties towards New and Expectant Mothers.

This has raised questions about which other workers require employers to consider an enhanced level of responsibility to ensure their health and safety.

HSE defines vulnerable workers as those who are at risk of having their workplace entitlements denied, or who lack the capacity or means to secure them. They also clearly state that Health and safety should not be used as an excuse to justify discriminating against certain groups of workers.

So, this week I will give you guidance as to your legal duties along with recommendations of actions that you, as an employer, should take.


Where workers are more vulnerable to accidents or work-related ill health, employers have an enhanced level of responsibility to ensure their health and safety.

The groups of workers who may be at increased risk include new and expectant mothers, young people and children, disabled and those with long-term medical conditions, new and less experienced workers, migrant workers or those for whom English is not their first language, those returning after prolonged illness, new starters, temporary workers, lone workers and home workers..

What specific regulations are there to protect new and expectant mothers’ health and safety?

Specific laws relating to new and expectant mothers at work are mainly contained in:

  • Equality Act 2010: The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.
    It replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. It sets out the different ways in which it’s unlawful to treat someone.
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: The Regulations implement the health and safety requirements of vulnerable workers.
  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005: These Regulations require employers to have a bespoke ‘escape plan’ for individuals who may not be able to reach an ultimate place of safety unaided or within a satisfactory period of time in the event of any emergency
  • The Working Time Regulations 1998: The Regulations apply to all workers (not just employees) and stipulate minimum rest breaks, daily rest, weekly rest and the maximum average working week.

What are the main categories of vulnerable workers?

As well as New and expectant mothers which we covered last week, there are 5 other main headings

  • Disabled Workers: Health and safety legislation should not prevent disabled people finding or staying in employment and should not be used as a false excuse to justify discriminating against disabled workers.
  • Migrant Workers: If you employ migrant workers, you must make sure that you are looking after their health and safety properly. This includes dealing with any language barriers. Health and safety law provides protection for migrant workers whether they are working here legally or not..
  • Young People: When employing a young person under the age of 18, whether for work, work experience, or as an apprentice, employers have the same responsibilities for their health, safety and welfare as they do for other employees.
  • Older Workers: Today’s workforce is likely to contain a higher proportion of older workers because of factors such as increased life expectancy, removal of the default retirement age and raising of the State Pension Age, which means that many people will need, and want to continue working. Employers have the same responsibilities for the health and safety of older employees as they have for all their employees
  • New to the job: People are at particular risk of injury in the first six months of a job as they may be unaware of existing or potential risks.

Recommendations for employers

  • Assess workers capabilities after recruitment, or after a prolonged period of ill health and before the worker begins work
  • do not employ children or young people for work which is not permitted, or without a relevant permit, parental consent in the case of a child
  • comply with specific requirements on working hours, breaks, night work and rest as apply to the particular age of the worker
  • when undertaking risk assessments, ensure that groups of vulnerable workers are identified and that risk control measures take them into account
  • carry out any additional specific risk assessments as required by legislation and good practice, eg young workers, new and expectant mothers, disabled workers
  • involve workers in the risk assessment process, as a minimum by sharing the key findings. For child workers, share the findings with the parent or guardian
  • make sure that first aid and fire and other emergency procedures take into account any specific needs
  • where work equipment is involved, consider any ergonomic changes needed
  • make other reasonable adjustments to work activities and workplaces as needed – this can include working hours and pay
  • take into account any special needs and language barriers within training programmes including the provision of a suitable induction programme
  • considering any special needs when communicating health and safety messages
  • provide additional support and supervision where needed
  • liaise with employment agencies to ensure that they play their part in the safety of temporary workers they supply
  • where it is not possible to make the work safe for a worker through reasonable efforts and costs, seek HR or health and safety advice, as applicable.

Key Points

  • General risk assessments for premises and work activities and fire risk assessments, must take into account the risks to all who may be affected, highlighting any more vulnerable groups of workers
  • in the case of young workers (below the age of 18) and new and expectant mothers, specific risk assessments must be undertaken
  • Personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) must be devised to ensure that disabled workers can safely escape in the event of fire or other emergencies
  • Safe systems of work need to take into account the special needs of vulnerable workers, e.g. additional training, enhanced supervision, altered working patterns, translation of written instructions, extra supervision
  • Health and safety takes priority. If reasonable adjustments cannot be made to accommodate a worker’s particular needs, then managers should seek HR advice. In the case of new and expectant mothers there is a legal requirement to suspend the worker on full pay if work cannot be made safe
  • for workers below the age of 18, and in particular, for those who are still children, there are legal restrictions on the type of work permitted and more stringent working time legislation which must be complied with.

If you would like any further help or support, please please contact us by phone 01458 253682, email or via our Facebook page or by Twitter.


Taunton & Somerset CPD Group at The Exchange House Taunton

Please remember that we now run these CPD events at the Exchange House, 12 – 14 The Crescent, Taunton TA1 4EB on a fortnightly basis

The next of the CPD events is listed below.Exchange House

As previously requested, if you could let us know whether or not you can attend it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you would like to give a talk, or know of somebody who would, please contact Jon at [email protected]

Our next Seminar will be on Wednesday 10th April 2019. Could you please arrive by 12:30pm prompt.

Our speaker for this one is Peter Bushnell of The Wilkins Safety Group will talk about What are the benefits of ISO 45001?

If you haven’t already booked your place, or if you are not on the CPD Seminar mailing list but would like to be please drop Jon an email and he will deal with your request.

As per our last one if you could let Jon know whether or not you can attend within 7 days of receipt of his email, it would be greatly appreciated.

Contact Details [email protected], 07831 714199 or 01458 253682

*Early notice of 24th April meeting. Someone from Alumasc Water Management Solutions will talk about ‘Soil & Vent, Design & Specification’

For more details about these and the other forthcoming CPD talks please see cpds to 24th April 2019


Training CoursesHealth and Safety training

We shall be running new courses again in 2019 and the dates and details of forthcoming courses will be published here each week.

But remember we are still available for running “In House” courses and are looking to add new training courses to our list.

If you have any questions about these courses or any other training or would like us to run a particular course for you, call Jon Wilkins of the Wilkins Safety Group on 01458 253682 or email him at [email protected]