What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – A Brief Overview

26May 2017


What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Often referred to as HASAW, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is an Act of Parliament and the main piece of health and safety legislation in Great Britain.

It places a duty on all employers “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work” of all their employees.

Background to the Health And Safety At Work Act

Lord Robens at his deskThe Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 resulted from the findings of the Robens’ report 1972, which identified that current health and safety laws at the time tended to focus on specific industries only.

This left some 5 million workers unprotected by any health and safety legislation.

The public and contractors were generally ignored as the law tended to focus on the safety of plant and equipment rather than raising awareness and development of health and safety for people.

Keeping up with technology was another issue, as each piece of legislation had to be passed into law, it took a long time to apply and things were changing fast.

In 1970 Lord Robens was asked to review the provisions made for health and safety of people at work, and his conclusions formed the basis of what would become the xxHealth and Safety at Work Act 1974.xx

Photo of Lord Robens with kind permission of http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw102727/Alfred-Robens-Baron-Robens-of-Woldingham

What are the founding principles of the Act?

The principle recommendation was that there should be one single Act that covers all workers.

This is known as an Enabling Act which allows the Secretary of State to make Image depicting different trades and the the scales of health and safety law in the UK which is based on balance of probabilityfurther laws underneath it (known as regulations) without the need to pass another Act of Parliament. This allows safety regulations to be put in place quickly in order to keep up with technology, or the rapid changing face of an industry.

These regulations are laws approved by Parliament and are usually following the recommendations of the HSE.

 Other principle recommendations included:

Protecting all those affected by the employer’s undertakings, including contractors, visitors, members of the public and students.

Person slipping on spilled liquidAn emphasis on health and safety management and developing safe systems of work.

Enforcement to be targeted on self regulation, rather than court enforcement. The idea being that the responsibility for good health and safety at work would become a part of everybody’s day to day working life.

The Key Points of the Health and Safety at Work Act

The key points of the health and safety at work act include the following.

Section 2. Duties of the employer to the employee.

Section 3. Duties of employers to others affected by their undertaking.

Section 4. Duties of landlords, building owners and building managers (or those in control of premises)

Section 6. Duties of suppliers.

Section 7. Duties of employees.

Section 8. Duties of employees not to interfere with anything provided for health, safety and welfare.

Section 9. The right not to be charged for PPE.

Section 36. Offences due to the fault of another person.

Section 37. Personal liability of directors.


And last but not least

Female tanker driver at workWe all have a role to play in effective health and safety, and for those actively involved in promoting safe working practices it can be a rewarding, interesting and varied role.

Please visit this site often where you will find a growing number of articles, resources, advice and opinion.

Whether you are a seasoned health and safety professional, or just getting started, we value your opinions and input so please feel free to comment on any of the posts.

Due to the ever-changing nature of regulations and the law, please visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/ for the very latest information and updates.


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