Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is the major piece of health and safety
legislation in Great Britain. It provides the legal framework to promote, stimulate
and encourage high standards.
Previous Acts had concentrated upon prescription of solutions within the law; a
series of Factories Acts in particular had raised standards progressively since
1833 by stipulating what measures needed to be taken in factories, and although
the legislative base was gradually widened to include other kinds of premises, modern
work practices and businesses were no longer fully covered by legislation by the
end of the third quarter of the last century.
Consultations carried out by the Robens Committee between 1970 and 1972 produced
the basis of a new type of law - one which placed responsibility on employers and
employees together to produce their own solutions to health and safety problems,
subject to the test of reasonably practicability.
The Act introduced for the first time, a comprehensive and integrated system dealing
with workplace health and safety and the protection of the public from work activities.
By placing duties of a general character upon employers, employees, the self-employed,
manufacturers, designers and importers of work equipment and materials, the protection
of the law, rights and responsibilities are available and given to all at work.
An "enabling" Act, much of the text is devoted to the legal machinery for creating
administrative bodies, combining others and detailing new powers of inspection and
enforcement. The Health and Safety Commission carries for policy making and enforcement,
answerable to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Its executive arm is the
Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who's functions range from enforcement to research
and European liaison on standards.
General Duties of Employers
Employers must, as far as is reasonably practicable, safeguard the health, safety
and welfare of employees (Section2). In particular, this extends to the provision
and maintainance of:
- Safe plant and safe systems of work
- safe handling, storage, maintenance and transport of (work) articles and substances
- necessary information, instruction, training and supervision
- a safe place of work, with safe access and egress
- a safe working environment with adequate welfare facilities
General Duties of Employees
Employees must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others
who may be affected by their acts or omissions (Section 7).
They must also co-operate with their employer, so far as is necessary, to enable
the employer to comply with his duties under the Act. It is an offence for anyone
to intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the
interests of health, safety or welfare (Section 8).