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Health & Safety

What is the Health And Safety at Work Act? The Complete Guide

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Nauman Farooq

Oct 09, 2023

Read time : 10 mins

Table of contents

What Is Health And Safety At Work Act?
General Responsibilities of the Workplace
The Influence of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Is the Health and Safety at Work Act Still Relevant?
What is PPE?
FAQs
Conclusion

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) is the primary legislative framework covering professional health and safety standards in the United Kingdom. It is also known as the HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act, or HASAWA.

The act aims to explain and describe the wide-ranging responsibilities that employers and employees have to fulfil to ensure a safe and protective work environment. It also ensures Regulatory compliance and assists organisations in understanding and implementing health and safety practices.

General Responsibilities of the Workplace

The HASWA 1974 set the general responsibilities of the workplace such as:

  • Adequate and effective training for employees/staff to teach them health and safety practices.
  • Suitable workplace regulations for staff.
  • A safe and protective work environment where operations are carried out safely.
  • Appropriate instruction, supervision, and provision of relevant information.

If your company has five or more employees, your employer must have a written record of their health and safety policy. The company must make employees aware of these policies.

The Influence of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASWA)

With advanced technology and machinery, everyone must have a safe working environment to avoid unwanted incidents. This act has brought well-needed progress and advancement in the health and safety of employees.

The effectiveness of this act also forced other countries to apply and emulate this. The following statistics from a recent report show the reduction in work-related injuries after the implementation of this act between 1974 and 2015.

  • Fatal health injuries to fall by 85%.
  • Non-fatal health injuries to fall by 77%

Is the Health and Safety at Work Act Still Relevant?

Though this act was drafted over 40 years ago, it is still relevant and applicable. The Health and Safety at Work Act has been a part of the UK legal system since 1974. The HASWA was developed as a result of serious and dangerous working conditions in factories and mines.

Other Acts Related to the Health and Safety at Work Act

Grasping a relatively long piece of legislation can be challenging, but to simplify it, I have summarised the essential points.

primary regulations of health and safety

1. Workplace (Health, Safety, And Welfare) Regulations 1992

The Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) regulations apply to all aspects of the working environment. It’s obligatory for employers to provide safe and appropriate workplaces to employees. These regulations apply to the majority of organisations. The major duties of employers under this act include provision for comfort, provision for sanitation of employees, such as restrooms and handwashing facilities, provision for the appropriate work environment and safety. The regulation also covers DSE, equipment maintenance, ventilation, and windows.

2. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 supports users of Display Screen Equipment (DSE). Workers who use such equipment for a significant amount of time (generally more than an hour per day or regularly) are classified as DSE users.

The regulation applies to all DSE employees who work remotely, full-time, part-time, onsite, or on contract. The regulations require employers to:

  • Perform a risk assessment at each DSE user’s workstation.
  • Provide auxiliary equipment if required.
  • Take actions to reduce hazards and associated risks.
  • Make sure that employees take regular breaks.
  • Provide an eyesight test free of cost.
  • Provide required and suitable training for all DSE staff.

3. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, which were amended in 2002, consist of regulations that apply to a wide range of manual handling activities. Some of these are lifting, pushing, pulling, and lowering.

Responsibilities of Employers under These Regulations

The regulations state that employers are responsible for manual handling operations and it requires employers to:

  • Give training and information on correct manual handling techniques.
  • Make sure the provided equipment is appropriate for the purpose for which it is designed.
  • Conduct proper maintenance of manual handling apparatus and equipment.
Responsibilities of Employees under these regulations
  • Adhere to practices and a safe system of work.
  • Use equipment safely and accurately.
  • Cooperate with employers in work and safety matters.
  • Report to employers if employees identify any manual handling risks.
  • Make sure that they are also responsible for other employees’ safety.

4. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

This order provides minimal fire safety standards in the workplace. The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order is applicable in England and Wales only.

Responsibilities of Employees under these regulations
Employees should:
  1. Not endanger themselves or others
  2. Report unsafe activities to the employer
  3. Recover their losses if the employer fails to comply with RRO
Responsibilities of the Employer under this Order

Employers are responsible for fire safety at the workplace. They must:

  • Carry out risk assessments to identify risks and hazards.
  • Take everyone into account who could be harmed by a fire, including employees, guests, contractors, and clients.
  • Eradicate risks as soon as possible and provide precautions to deal with the remaining risks.
  • Ensure that flammable materials are stored safely.
  • Establish an emergency plan.

5. Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)

While it is essential to take reasonable precautions at work if an accident or another dangerous situation arises, it must be reported under RIDDOR regulations. The law applies to only “reported incidents” at work-related premises. Before reporting an incident, you must know:

  • Was the accident caused by any machinery or equipment?
  • Are the premises in a bad state of repair?

How work is performed or supervised?
If not, then it is not a reportable incident. Moreover, RIDDOR by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided complete guidance and defined criteria for reportable incidents.

6. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

These regulations define that employers are responsible for providing Personal Protective Equipment to employees at work to avoid any type of risk and safety threats. Protective face masks, visors, helmets, goggles, gloves, ear protectors, overalls, safety boots, air filters, and hairnets are examples of PPE equipment that must be provided.

Responsibilities of the Employers under PPE Regulations
  • Provision of necessary equipment for free
  • Provision of training and accurate information on how to use safety equipment
  • PPE is used as a last resort after other risk-reduction or risk-aversion controls have been implemented.

What is PPE?

PPE is the abbreviation of Personal Protective Equipment. Protective face masks, visors, helmets, goggles, gloves, ear protectors, overalls, safety boots, air filters, and hairnets are some examples of personal protective equipment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the employer’s duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act?
The primary duties of employers under this act are to provide you with a safe and healthy work environment. It can be done by offering a safe system of work, providing safe equipment, carrying out operations and assessments, giving necessary training to employees, and keeping staff informed about all risks and hazards.

What are the main health and safety regulations?
The primary regulations that come under this act are workplace regulations, health, and safety regulations, manual handling operations regulations, reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations, personal protective equipment regulations and many more.

What are the working time regulations in the 1998 act?
The working time regulations of 1998 specified and limited the working hours for employees. Under this act, if you are an adult you can work 48 hours a week with a daily rest period of 11 hours and a rest break every 6 hours of work.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the Health and Safety at Work Act is one of the most successful acts in the UK. The success of this act is beyond doubt and the figures speak for themselves. On work premises where hundreds of employees were losing their lives by being exposed to fatal or nonfatal injuries, this act proved to be a life saviour.

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