Mandatory rules regarding health and safety are essential in reducing the chances of an accident at work.
What is the main source of material for health and safety practices in the workplace?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (also referred to as HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act or HASAWA) is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain.
The Health and Safety Executive, in conjunction with the relevant local authorities (and other enforcing authorities) is responsible for enforcing the Act and a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment.
What does The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 require of an employer?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the general duties which employers have towards their employees, and towards members of the public. The act also sets out the duties the employees have to themselves and to others around them.
These duties are qualified in the act by the term “so far as is reasonably possible.” To put it in lay-man terms the employer is not required to take measures to prevent or reduce accidents in the workplace which may have been impossible to avoid at the time.
I’ve heard that the Act creates unnecessary red tape for employers. Is this true?
The law requires simply good management and common sense and that measures should not in any way be grossly disproportional to the risk, despite the idea by some that Britain is engulfed in a health and safety culture filled with unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.
The law simply requires employers to perform proper risk assessment and take action where there may be an increased risk of an accident in the workplace.
The act is designed to be straightforwardly interpreted for usual work environments with a low risk of injury such as in an office block. The act should only be complicated if it is used to determine serious risks in an extremely hazardous environment where employees are exposed to a constant risk of danger, such as employees in power plants, chemical plants, laboratories and oil rigs.
These are areas where occupational hazards are quite high. Employers with 5 or more employees are required to record the significant findings of a risk assessment, namely where there is a real and present danger of a serious work-related injury.
Accident Advice Helpline is committed to helping those who have been affected by a contravention of the 1974 Act.
Date Published: December 1, 2013
Author: David Brown