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

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and what does it mean to business’s in the UK. 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 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 resulted from the findings of the Robens’ report 1972, which identified that 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. This meant it took a long time to apply any changes to health and safety law 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 Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

what is the health and safety at work act 1974. picture of lord Robens

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 and could be adapted quickly to respond to technology or changes in industry.

what is the health and safety at work act 1974. image depicting different trades.
Health & Safety at Work

The Health and Safety at Work Act became what is called an Enabling Act which allows the Secretary of State to introduce further laws underneath the Act (known as regulations) without the need to pass another Act of Parliament. This allowed safety regulations to be put in place quickly and flexibly.

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.

An 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 1974

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

Section 2. Duties of the employer to the employee.

Ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare of all employees. Including:

  • Safe plant and system of work.
  • Safe use, handling, transport and storage of substances and articles.
  • Provision of adequate information, instruction and training.
  • A safe place of work including safe access and egress.
  • A safe working environment with access to adequate welfare facilities.
  • Consultation with a safety rep and formation of safety committees where there is a recognized trade union.
  • A written safety policy including organisational arrangements where there are five or more employees.

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

  • The duty of an employer to protect others from the actions and undertakings of the business.
  • This might include neighbours, members of the public, contractors, visitors, students, patients (if a medical facility)

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

  • Includes safe access and egress for those visiting or using the premises.
  • Safe plant and equipment where it is fixed plant provided by the premises owner such as roller shutter doors, a heating installation, lifts or escalators for example.

Section 6. Duties of suppliers.

Suppliers and designers of articles and substances have a duty so far as is reasonably practicable to ensure that:

  • Articles are designed to be safe and not a threat to health when being used, set, maintained and cleaned.
  • Substances are afforded the same safety when being handled, transported or stored.
  • Arrange where necessary for suitable testing and examination, and supply suitable safety information and updates to customers.

Section 7. Duties of employees.

  • Employees have a duty in the workplace and towards their employer to:
  • Take care of the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions.
  • Cooperate with the employer to ensure compliance with any statutory health and safety duty.

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

  • Further to section 7, employees also have a duty not to misuse anything supplied to him, or any other persons, or in general anything provided for health and safety purposes

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

  • Employees cannot be charged for any PPE that is required for the safe  discharge of his or her work role.

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

  • Where an offence was committed by a person (typically the employer) but the fault was caused by a second person (a designer of a faulty piece of equipment for example, or a contractor acting recklessly), then both the first and second person may be charged with the offence.

Section 37. Personal liability of directors.

Where an offence is committed by a corporate body with the consent, connivance or neglect of directors or senior officers then both the corporate body and the involved individuals maybe liable to prosecution.

And last but not least

We 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.

Training and CPD

HST have teamed up with an online partner to bring you health, safety and compliance training at very affordable prices. These courses available 24/7 so you can study at a time to suit you.

health and safety at work act. key points

Take a look today and consider upskilling yourself or your workforce.

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