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The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

The main piece of legislation affecting the management of health and safety in workplaces across all sectors is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

This Act provides a framework for ensuring the health and safety of all employees in any work activity. It also provides for the health and safety of anyone who may be affected by work activities in e.g. employees, contractors and visitors to sites. Employers and employees (as well as manufacturers, suppliers and the self-employed) must comply with the duties set out in the Act. The additional regulations are accompanied by industry (typically the HSE) supporting guidance in how to achieve compliance with the associated regulations. Examples are:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012
  • The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
  • The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
  • The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Duties of the Employer

All workers have a right to work in places where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Health and safety is about stopping employees getting hurt at work or ill through work. The employer is responsible for health and safety, but the employees must help.

What employers must do

  • Decide what could harm employees in their job and the precautions to stop it. This is part of a risk assessment
  • In a way in which employees can understand, explain how risks will be controlled and tell them who is responsible for this.
  • Consult and work with employees and health and safety representatives in protecting everyone from harm in the workplace.
  • Free of charge, give employees the health and safety training they need to do their job.
  • Free of charge, provide employees with any equipment and protective clothing they need, and ensure it is properly looked after.
  • Provide toilets, washing facilities and drinking water.
  • Provide adequate first-aid facilities.
  • Report major injuries and fatalities at work. Report other injuries, diseases and dangerous incidents online at
  • Have insurance that covers employees in case they get hurt at work or ill through work. Display a hard copy or electronic copy of the current insurance certificate where this can be easily read.
  • Work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace or providing employees (such as agency workers), so that everyone’s health and safety is protected.

Duties of Employees

  • Follow the training an employee has received when using any work items the employer has given them.
  • Take reasonable care of own and other people’s health and safety
  • Co-operate with the employer on health and safety.
  • Tell someone (the employer, supervisor, or health and safety representative) if the employee thinks the work or inadequate precautions are putting anyone’s health and safety at serious risk.
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