The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was a milestone in British legal history. Having recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, the act and the subsidiary regulations it spawned have protected millions of workers, and resulted in a sharp reduction in the numbers of occupational deaths, serious injury and ill health. Yet, despite its significance, the language used in Health & Safety at Work Act and other related legislation can be surprisingly impenetrable and legalistic. With that in mind we’ve put together a guide to the highlights of health and safety legislation at work, including the key requirements of health and safety law summarised below…
Health and safety made simple!
General Duty of Care
This means all employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have a duty to protect non-employees from risks arising out of their work activities.
Health and Safety Management System
Employers must make adequate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of protective and preventive measures. Where five or more people are employed, they must also make a record of these arrangements.
Safety Policy Statement
A written policy statement must be prepared (if five or more persons are employed) covering the employer’s organisation and arrangements in force for ensuring health and safety. For more advice, please see our guide to building a perfect safety policy template.
‘Suitable and sufficient’ risk assessments must be carried out by the employer. The purpose is to identify hazards, assess the probability that harm may arise from them and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures. For more advice, please see our risk assessment template post.
Arrangements should be made for any necessary health surveillance of employees to help control risks in the workplace and spot the early signs of work-related ill health.
Cooperation and Co-ordination
Employers and employees must co-operate and co-ordinate their activities to ensure that they can meet their health and safety responsibilities. Please see these great tips on increasing worker engagement for more information!
Information, Instruction and Supervision
Employees must be given comprehensible information, instruction and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety and that of others.
Tackling Risks at Source
The workplace must be made safe without risks to health. So far as is reasonably practicable, accidents and work related health damage should be prevented by tackling risks at source, rather than attempting to control them once they have developed.
Personal Protective Equipment
Where risks cannot be controlled at source, appropriate personal protective clothing and/or equipment should be provided free of charge.
Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), all work equipment must meet essential safety requirements and safe systems of work must be established. Sometimes other regulations also apply to specific pieces of equipment, such as display screen equipment.
Adequate precautions should be taken against fires and explosions and adequate means of escape and fire fighting equipment should be provided.
Exposure to hazardous agents such as dust, fumes, noise, vibration, radiation or harmful micro-organisms must be eliminated or adequately controlled. Articles and substances should be safe and without risks to health when properly used. They must be properly designed, tested, packaged, labelled and accompanied by adequate information. They must also be moved, stored and used safely.
Reporting and Recording
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) place a legal duty on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and near misses. Records also have to be kept for the results of workplace environmental monitoring, health surveillance and maintenance etc
An adequate number of ‘competent’ persons have to be appointed, with sufficient time and resources at their disposal. Competent health and safety advisers can be either employees with appropriate qualifications and experience or professionally qualified consultants
Adequate emergency arrangements must be in place under the control of ‘competent persons’. There must also be suitable procedures for employees to report serious and imminent danger as well as shortcomings in health and safety arrangements.
Safety Representatives, Safety Committees and Consultation
Employers must consult their workforce on health and safety matters. When the employer recognises a trade union, that union has the right to appoint safety representatives who must be consulted on all matters affecting the health and safety of employees they represent. If requested to do so, the employer must establish a joint safety committee. Safety representatives are entitled to paid time off to attend TUC or union approved training courses.
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