Health And Safety Legislation
BA (Hons), MSc.
Associate Member CIEHF
The main pieces of legislation dealing with different aspects of health and safety are the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. These two set the standards for all health and safety in the UK workplace.
In addition, there are secondary pieces of health and safety legislation which are more specific and cover a range of subjects such as manual handling, fire and DSE. Together these form the legal framework for health and safety in the workplace.
See below for a summary of each piece of legislation.
List of Health and Safety Legislation
- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 amended 2002
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995)
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
- COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) 2002
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
- The Working Time Regulations 1998
The basis of health and safety legislation relating to the workplace is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It is also known as HASAWA or HSW and most health and safety legislation is contained in it.
What are the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act?
HASAW is based on common sense and safe practice. It places the duty on employers to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees at work “as far as is reasonably practicable”.
“as far as is reasonably practicable”
The responsibilities of the employer
- Provide and maintain safe systems of work.
- Provide adequate health and safety induction and training.
- Maintain safe work equipment.
- Ensure safe operation of working equipment.
- Ensure adequate welfare provisions are made.
- Provide a safe place of work. This includes safe access and egress.
- Ensure any materials are handled, transported, used and stored safely.
- Communicate with safety representatives.
- Provide PPE or any other equipment needed in the interests of health and safety.
Do employees have any responsibilities?
Yes, there are responsibilities for the employee too. Employees must:
- Take care of their own health and safety and that of others.
- Not interfere with any health hand safety equipment.
- Cooperate with employers.
Also known as the ‘Management Regs’, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place a duty on employers to assess and manage risk. Specifically, they require employers to do the following:
- Manage risk in the workplace by carrying out risk assessments.
- Take action to reduce or eliminate risks.
- Appoint a ‘competent person’ to oversee health and safety in the workplace.
- Provide staff with information and training with regards to safe working practice.
- Have a health and safety policy in place.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 apply to most places of work. They require employers to ensure the working environment is safe, as free from risk as is reasonably possible and that appropriate equipment is provided where necessary.
The Regulations cover:
- Ventilation and windows
- Maintenance of equipment
- The environment around the working area such as traffic, risk of slips, trips and falls
- Falling objects
- Entry and egress
- Facilities such as restrooms, changing rooms and meals/drinks
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 protect DSE users. DSE users are workers who habitually use a workstation/DSE equipment for a significant time (generally more than an hour a day or regular use) in order to complete their work.
The Regulations also apply to DSE users who work at home or remotely, contractors and temporary workers. Under these regulations, employers must:
- Carry out a risk assessment for each DSE user at their workstation. This will identify hazards and evaluate any risks. A clear record of the assessment and its findings should be kept and reviewed.
- Take measures to reduce risk
- Make provision for eye tests with an optician.
- Ensure regular breaks are taken
- Provide adequate training and information for all staff identified as a DSE user.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002 apply to a wide range of manual handling activities, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.
Who is responsible for manual handling regulations?
Employers have the primary responsibility.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations require employers to:
- Provide information and training on correct manual handling techniques.
- Ensure equipment provided is suitable for the purpose for which it is intended.
- Properly maintain manual handling equipment.
What about employees?
Employees have responsibilities too. They should:
- Follow safe systems of work.
- Use equipment correctly and safely.
- Cooperate with employers on health and safety matters.
- Let their employer know if they identify any manual handling risks
- Ensure they do not put others at risk.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order applies to England and Wales only. For Scotland refer to Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. The Order is designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard in non-domestic premises such as the workplace.
Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?
In the workplace, the employer is the ‘Responsible Person’. In order to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire and to identify people at risk, the Responsible Person is required to oversee fire safety and to carry a Fire Risk Assessment. The Responsible Person can appoint a ‘Competent Person’ in this role however, the ultimate responsibility still lies with the employer.
What are the requirements of the Fire Order?
1. To carry out a fire risk assessment identifying hazards and risk. For instance sources of ignition and sources of fuel.
2. Consider everyone who is at risk in the event of a fire – staff, visitors, contractors, customers
3. Eliminate risk as far as is possible and have precautions in place to deal with any remaining risk.
4. Ensure safe storage of flammable materials
5. Have an emergency plan in place
6. regularly review your plan and any findings
The Order also requires fire risk assessments to be reviewed and kept up to date, and records maintained.
RIDDOR requires employers to record and report accidents and injuries at work.
The law applies where there is a dangerous occurrence, injury, accident or disease if the incident is work-related. When deciding if an occurrence is reportable, you should consider the following:
- Was the way work is carried out or supervised a contributory factor?
- Was the accident related to any machinery or equipment being used?
- Are the premises in a poorly maintained condition?
If the answer is No to any of the above, a report is probably not necessary.
What are ‘Reportable incidents’?
All deaths resulting from a work-related accident must be reported.
- Specific injuries including:
Crush injuries to head or torso.
Any serious injury to eyes leading to the permanent loss of or impaired sight.
Severe burns i.e. covering 10% or more of the body or causing damage to eyes, respiratory system or other organs.
Any injury causing loss of consciousness.
Over-seven-day incapacitation of a worker
Accidents must be reported where the injuries which result in missing work for ‘over seven days’.
- Non-fatal accidents to members of the public (non-staff)
Accidents to the public must be reported if they result in an injury which requires immediate hospital treatment.
- Over-three-day incapacitation of a worker
Accidents must be recorded but not reported where they result in over three consecutive days of incapacitation.
- Some occupational diseases or conditions
Including RSI (repetitive strain injury), carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, occupational dermatitis.
- ‘Dangerous occurrences’
These are near misses. Some need to be reported such as the failure or collapse of lifting equipment. For further guidance on dangerous occurrences.
Under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, employers have a duty to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at work to protect staff against health and safety risks “wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.”.
What is PPE?
PPE equipment that needs to be provided may include protective face masks, visors, helmets, goggles, gloves, ear protectors, overalls, safety boots, air filters, hairnets. Furthermore, employers must:
- Provide the PPE equipment free of charge where it is necessary
- Provide instructions and information on how to correctly use the PPE equipment.
- PPE is used as a last resort after implementing other controls to reduce or avoid risk.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations require employers to control the use, storage, transport of any substances which may be harmful to health in order to reduce the workers’ possible exposure.
COSHH covers a wide range of potentially hazardous substances including:
- Chemicals (bleach for instance)
- Products containing chemicals
- Gases and asphyxiating gases
- Biological agents (look for the hazard symbols on the packaging)
In order to reduce the workers’ possible exposure, employers must:
- Identify any use of substances harmful to health
- Assess the risk of using these substances.
- Reduce or eliminate any risk identified by introducing control measures and ensuring these controls are adequate and properly used.
- Provide instructions and training for employees and anyone else who may risk exposure.
- Provide monitoring and health surveillance if appropriate
- Plan for an emergency.
When using hazardous substances, employers should consider how these substances cause harm and whether a different substance or process can be used to reduce risk. For instance, painting rather than spraying paint reduces the risk or vapour inhalation.
COSHH does not cover asbestos, lead or radioactive substances because these have their own regulations.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 place duties on businesses and organisations who own, use or operate work equipment. Under these regulations, employers must ensure any equipment provided or used is:
- Suitable for the intended use.
- Safe to use.
- Properly maintained.
- Used only by those who have had proper training or instruction.
- Accompanied by health and safety measures such as emergency stop buttons and signage.
Some equipment is also covered in other legislation. For instance, PPE equipment is covered by the PPE regulations.
The Working Time Regulations are based on two EU directives regarding the limits on working hours and further protection for young workers.
For adult workers the key protections are:
- To have a maximum working week of 48 hours. If a worker opts out of this protection voluntarily, they must do so in writing.
- Daily rest periods of at least 11 hours.
- A rest break every six hours of work.
For young workers
There are further protections for young people (aged between 15 and 18). See here for up to date guidance.