How to start a market stall, lesson 8, Market Nosh, Health and Safety

Lesson 8: Health and Safety

Health and safety can seem so dry and boring you may be thinking this has nothing to do with me or my market stall.

You may not be doing much apart from selling some simple homemade art work to people who love art. Where’s the need for health and safety?

In this lesson we are going to be looking at why Health and Safety is important and affects you, and the requirement for Health and Safety within the Marketplace. To view other lessons click How to Start a Market Stall.

Defining Health and Safety

The Health and Safety movement has really become more effective in our lives and businesses over the last 40 years, but where did the idea of Health and Safety come from?

In the UK, mills employed all number of people to work long hours and used children to work too. In 1833, four inspectors formed the first Factory Inspectorate and they had the power to enter a mill and observe how it functioned.

The Factories Act of 1833 began to change what employers and the way workers were treated in the workplace.

Their powers, although vastly limited to todays standards, stretched to ensuring machinery was as safe as it could be for workers in the mills. This meant they could also bring in certain laws which related to the machinery of the Mills too!

Obviously, they were stretched though, 3000 mills vs 4 inspectorates in 1833 would have been a monumental task to achieve, yet just 35 years later they had made an impression and grown the inspectorate to 35 inspectors and sub-inspectors. There was finally some movement in protecting people at work!

An extension to the Factories Act of 1833, in 1871, covered more than just the mills. It aimed to cover all workplaces. The Inspectors took a more advisory role, even though they still had powers to enforce closures of a business.

In 1843 the Mines Inspectorate was formed following the Mines Act of 1842. After conditions in mines were seen to be highly dangerous and life threatening. Times were about to change for the better.

In 1895, again following the Quarries Act of 1894, the Quarries Inspectorate was formed and another area of major industry came under the wing of the Health and Safety inspectors.

You may be thinking that this is all additional work and red tape not required for the common individuals trying to make their way in world. If everyone had a bit of common sense there would be no need to even have Health and Safety.

Perhaps not, but everyone thinks differently. In parts of the world child labour is still considered acceptable to business owners, or an employer can fire a person because they refuse to do overtime due to a medical issue or pregnancy.

(Further reading on Human rights and the conditions of workers see, The Guardian’s Article on India’s Clothing Workers, Wired’s Article on Foxconn and Apple, or from the Human Rights Watch, Work Faster or Get Out)

Health and Safety has developed in the UK to where the worker has the right to be safe at work. Their health around machinery, the environment they work in and the hours they work for are all covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974. Following the Act, in 1975 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was formed and today is a major driver in the workplace and in legislation.

(To continue reading the history of the HSE visit their Timeline.)

It is the responsibility of any employer to keep their employees safe, and provide for them the basic human rights required under EU law. More so today, company owners can be brought into direct accountability if their employees or members of the public come to harm due to unsafe or improper health and safety practices.

There is Trading Standards to ensure that selling practises are being properly maintained, and the Office of Fair Trading to watch over businesses within the UK. Each with powers that can be reinforced in law!

Health and Safety does benefit people, and aims to treat people as human beings.

Health and Safety and My Stall

It may seem trivial to a stall owner selling cuddly toys to a small child that the health and Safety regulations would have anything to do with their stall, and they would be wrong!

Selling a toy with materials that may be have been manufactured with toxic or hazardous chemicals will lead to serious penalties.

Selling counterfeit batteries that may explode on use is hazardous. Making soap from harmful chemicals that can burn the skin is not taking care of the public and will result in prosecution by the government.

Be wise when it comes to making or selling anything to the public. Of course you cannot account for every aspect of human nature. You cannot know what a person intends to do with a product you sell, but you can explain what its intended use is.

If something is dangerous when broken you must provide the warnings. If it contains materials that may harm, you have a duty and responsibility to explain that to your customers.


In the case of food preparation and storage, the Health and Safety rules are very clear. You must provide the best situation to ensure contamination of food products does not occur.

If you make furniture or art from old pallets, it is your responsibility to ensure the wood has not been treated with a chemical or has come into contact with rats or hazardous chemicals.

More than that, you are duty bound to provide a safe environment to the pubic. Fair trading conditions and laws are there to enforce what you ought to be doing anyway.

I always think in my own mind, how would I treat my grandmother, and normally that would mean I would need to explain, and provide clear directions to avoid her being hurt.

You might also like to read… It’s a Business, Not a Hobby.

Health and Safety in the Marketplace

The place you trade at is also bound to ensure you are trading in an environment which is safe for you and the public visiting. They have a duty to ensure that tripping hazards, electrical connections and the buildings/grounds are safe for people.

You may find that the management of a Marketplace will visit your stall to inspect what is on sale as they too are responsible for protecting the public.

If someone is injured because of the way your leave items laying around on the floor at your stall, they will also be responsible for not upholding the health and safety legislation and be accountable for it.

When the management ask you to change something you are doing or enquire about products you are selling, they are trying to maintain a safe environment for you, your fellow traders and the public.

I certainly would want my grandmother to enjoy a day out at a Marketplace offering fantastic foods and wonderful artwork. I would not expect her to trip of cracked pavements, loose wires and poorly laid out stalls.


I am aware that there is a lot of information and sometimes a lot of street talk about the ineptitude of Health and Safety and that common sense should prevail. The reality is that health and safety is trying to account for everyone’s lack of understanding and common sense by ensuring the safest environment.

You are responsible for the health and safety of the public who visit your stall. The marketplace is responsible to the public and traders who visit and work at the site. The safer and more open the environment the better chance we have of keeping people coming back and buying more from us.

If you have a question about Health and Safety and your stall, why not join the Market Nosh Costers, Facebook Group and ask in there. Someone may have been in a similar situation to you at some point and may just be able to offer some advice.

Quick Quiz

  1. When was Health and Safety first officially recognised?
  2. Why should you be concerned with Health and Safety at your Stall?
  3. How does the Management of a Marketplace have a duty to the public’s health and safety?

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