The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 contains a set of regulations for securing the health and safety of people involved in various occupations in the UK. It offers legal protection to employees against occupational risks and hazards related to health. The Health and Safety Executive along with local authorities is in-charge of enforcing the terms of this Act.

This Act is binding on the employers who are supposed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees on their premises. This act also offers protective coverage to the general public, visitors, clients, temporary workers and casual employees. The Health and Safety Executive can impose penalties on the employer in case of non-compliance to the regulations.

The Health And Safety Act in detail

The HSW Act provides a safety management framework which is publicized in order to guide employers as well as employees regarding their duties and rights respectively.

This Act is also applicable to contractors, importers, manufacturers, designers and suppliers. There are separate set of duties for employees as well as self-employed people.

Responsibilities of the Employer

As an employer, you need to fulfill the following set of responsibilities:

  • You need to carry out risk assessment of your business according to the norms mentioned in this Act and take steps to prevent all these potential risks.
  • All the employees need to be updated about the risks involved in the work process that you are assigning to them. They should especially be apprised of the involvement of any hazardous substances that they need to deal with as a part of their work.
  • You need to give your employees instruction and training regarding the ways to avoid risks and hazards and supervise their work if you are aware that the level of risk is high.
  • A health and safety manager needs to be employed to ensure proper compliance with all the regulations. The person you recruit for this job needs to be competent enough to oversee the safety management process effectively, conduct periodic safety inspections and coordinate with safety representatives.
  • You have to provide your employees with adequate safety gear, equipment and clothing to shield them from hazards.
  • First aid facilities should be kept handy so that workers get immediate medical attention and treatment in case of injuries and mishaps.
  • Instances of injuries, occupational diseases and dangerous incidents should be reported to the Incident Contact Centre immediately.
  • Provide insurance coverage to employees if they get ill or injure themselves while working for you. A hard copy of electronic display of this insurance certificate should be clearly accessible to all the employees so that they know their rights.
  • The use of highly flammable substances or explosives needs to be controlled. Any kind of unlawful possession and misuse of such dangerous substances on the premises needs to be prevented.
  • You need to control the emission of toxic substances from the premises into the atmosphere to control pollution and smoke inhalation by the employees.

Duties of the Employees

Employees also have certain duties to carry out for their own health and safety:

  1. They need to cooperate with their employer by following all the instructions related to the work process carefully.
  2. It is their responsibility to take care of their own health and also help colleagues and fellow workers to stay healthy and safe.
  3. The training provided by the employer should be put to use while working so that the chances of a mishap get reduced significantly.
  4. They are supposed to inform the health and safety representative or their supervisor regarding any inadequacy in precautions taken by the employer which can potentially put someone's safety and health in danger.
  5. If they are concerned about their health and safety and they are not satisfied even after talking to their employer regarding a solution, they can contact any local authority which has the right to enforce the Health and Safety Act with the help of the HSE Info line.

FAQs related to the Health and Safety Act

1) Do contractual employees have health and safety rights?

Employers are obliged to extend the benefits of the Health and Safety Act to all workers on site, be it contractual, full-time, part time or casual workers.

2) Are new and expectant mothers given protection under this Act?

All those employees who have a service record of at least 12 weeks are provided protection under this Act. This includes new and expectant mothers as well. If female workers of childbearing age are a part of the workforce, the employers need to assess the amount of risk they are facing in their job and do their best to control or remove the source of hazard. In case the risk is unavoidable, the employer is supposed to change the working conditions or duration of work. If even that is not feasible, the female employee should be suspended from work with full monetary compensation till necessary.

3) Is there any special provision for protection of young employees?

Government regulations provide young workers who are aged between 16 and 18 with special protection because of the relative lack of experience and maturity compared to other workers. These employees are at a greater risk which is why employers are not supposed to make them do the following work:

- Which is beyond their capacity both physically and psychologically?

- Which involves exposure to harmful toxins?

- Which is very risky and has the scope to cause severe injury to young employees because of their lack of training

4) What does the Health and Safety Executive do?

The Health and Safety Executive is the person responsible for enforcing the Health and Safety Act. He or she carries out investigations, inspections and prosecutions to make sure that employers comply with the norms. Promoting practices for safe work, developing policies for employee safety and health, suggesting measures to employers and doing targeted research to find out new ways for improving working conditions are some additional duties of the Health and Safety Executive.

5) What are the chief Health and Safety Regulations to be followed by the Employer?

  1. Providing workers with a safe and secure work environment
  2. Giving employees facilities like washrooms, washing rooms, heating system, adequate lighting, proper ventilation, clean workplace, non-slippery passages, etc.
  • Conducting regular eye tests of the employees, giving them sufficient breaks between work and make provisions for furniture with ergonomic design for maximum comfort
  1. Supplying personal protective gear free of charge including helmets, goggles, masks, gloves, ear muffs and overalls
  2. Maintaining equipment and training the employees to use it competently
  3. Reporting any kind of injury, mishap or unfortunate incident related to the employees to the Health and Safety Executive
  • Not making the employees work for more than 48 hours in a week.

Now that you are fully aware of your responsibilities as an employer under the Health and Safety Act, a great way to make your business compliant is to give the employees online training regarding maintenance of health and safety. Choose a course which is cost-effective and flexible enough so as not to affect the productivity of your employees!