Safety First, First Aid Last

health and safety legislation in UK

UK health and safety legislation is headed by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC). The flagship health and safety law that regulates British workplaces is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was amended and clarified by The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) 25 years later.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act lays out what employees are expected to do in the workplace to maintain their own health and safety and the safety of others, as well as the responsibilities of employers to maintain safety at work. All guidelines are qualified by the phrase “so far as is reasonably practicable,” meaning that most workplace risks should be avoided unless doing so would place an undue burden (such as extreme financial costs) on the employer or employees.

The main requirement of employers with five or more employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act is risk assessment. In addition to a risk assessment, to protect the health and safety of their workforce, employers must implement any guidelines that are required according to the risk assessment. They must also employ or delegate people to implement any necessary health and safety measures.

Employers are expected to plan emergency and evacuation procedures for their workplace, provide health and safety information and education to their employees, and collaborate with any other employers sharing a workspace on health and safety.

Other regulations, as specified by the Health and Safety Act, include ones that are specific to workplaces that pose serious hazards. Examples include nuclear power or chemical plants, oil rigs, construction sites, or scientific laboratories. These types of higher-risk workplaces will like require extra attention to and training in health and safety measures for both employers and employees.

The Health and Safety Commission and the Executive (HSC/E) arm might step in to change or supplement regulations when industries change or when there is evidence of injury or illness in the workplace.