Health and Safety for the self-employed (UK)

by | May 6, 2022

Did you know that from October 2015, Health and safety law no longer applied to over 1.7 million self-employed people in the UK?

2015 saw legislation coming into play called the Deregulation Act. This was following the government setting an independent review of health and safety legislation to make proposals for simplifying it. Leading risk management specialist Professor Ragnar Löfstedt chaired this review.

Prior to October 2015 businesses, including that of the self-employed were legally required to comply with the following H&S regulations:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA). This ensures that all employers provide a safe working environment and look out for the health of their employees and permanent staff, casual, self-employed and temporary workers, as well as visiting members of the public.


  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This covers the assessment of hazards, risks, and control measures whilst at work.

So, in law if you are self-employed as defined by HSE executive, ‘you do not work under a contract of employment and work only for yourself’, and your work activity holds no potential threat to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public then health and safety law does not apply to you.

Are you exempt?

Within MINT Business Club a vast proportion of our members are self-employed and fall into the exempt category but not all self-employed people are exempt. If you work within industries/sectors that are deemed to be high-risk you MUST comply with health and safety laws.

Areas that are not exempt include:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Asbestos
  3. Construction including bricklayers, electricians, repair people, joiners, plumbers, and roofers.
  4. Gas (including landlords with gas responsibilities)
  5. Hairdressing (if using bleaching agents)
  6. Garage or workshop where others could be harmed.
  7. Genetically Modified Organisms
  8. Railways

So, if you can categorically say:

  1. You only work for yourself
  2. You do not employ others
  3. Your work does not put others at risk
  4. Your work does not fall into one of the non-exempt categories

You can consider yourself exempt. This would include accountants, artists, cake makers, dress makers, graphic designers, most photographers, and web developers.

When does the exemption stop?

 The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015

As soon as you hire your first employee your exemption stops. At that point you will need to risk assess the workplace, identify how your new employee will be exposed to the risks and what control measures will need to be put in place. Following that you are duty-bound to inform, instruct, train, and supervise on the risks and the measures put in place to reduce or eliminate the risk. 

As soon as your company has five or more employees then a health and safety policy is required and you will also need a designated “competent” health and safety person.

Your health and safety

You might think as a self-employed person you do not need to worry about health and safety. Especially after you have just been informed you might be exempt from regulation and, you are just looking after yourself. But since you are the only person doing the work, it is even more important to stay safe and healthy. You are one of the 4.1 million self-employed people within the UK and let us keep it that way by always considering your own health and safety.

Please note:

 As a self-employed person, you as well as everyone else has a ‘duty of care,’ we must take care to avoid injuring someone else. This is a common law responsibility, and it is outside and on top of health and safety laws. 

Written by Suzanne C. Whelan MSc (Health, Safety and Environmental Management)