Health and Safety Law

Health and Safety Law

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974


The primary piece of legislation dealing with occupational health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

It specifies the general duties placed on employers, occupiers of the buildings, manufacturers, employees and the self-employed. Employers have a duty to protect workers as well as the general public.

Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act places a general duty on employers to ensure the safety, health and welfare of their workforce. In particular employers must:

  • Provide and maintain plant and systems at work so that they are safe and without risks to health.
  • Make arrangements for ensuring the safe use, handling, storage, and transport of articles and substances.
  • Provide health and safety information, instruction, training and supervision.
  • Maintain the place of work so that it is safe, as well as access to and exit from it.
  • Provide adequate welfare facilities.

Any employer who employs more than five people is required to prepare and keep an up-to-date written health and safety policy and to bring it to the attention of the employees. Employers must consult safety representatives of recognised trade unions about health and safety arrangements.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007) have been in force since April 2007. They revise and bring together the CDM Regulations 1994 and the Construction (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 into a single document.

The Regulations aim to integrate health and safety into all phases of the planning and management of construction projects. They encourage everyone involved in a project to work together to improve the planning and management of projects from the very start, identify risks early on, target efforts in terms of health and safety, and discourage unnecessary bureaucracy.

The accompanying Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) provides practical guidance on complying with the duties set out in the Regulations.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

In April 2008 the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into effect. The Act enables companies to be prosecuted for manslaughter because of management failures. However, the Act does not provide for individual directors and senior managers to be prosecuted and jailed if found guilty of breaches to health and safety. Over recent years UCATT has actively campaigned to introduce statutory directors duties.

Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008

In January 2009 the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 came into force. The Act increases fines for most existing health and safety offences from £5,000 to £20,000 in the Magistrate Court (the amount remains unlimited in the Crown Court). The Act also creates the threat of imprisonment for employees who may have contributed to a health and safety offence by their consent, connivance or neglect.

Other Regulations

Other important Regulations (in chronological order) include:

  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
  • Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended)
  • Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 (as amended)
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended)
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
  • Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended)
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 2002 (as amended)
  • Work at Heights Regulations 2005 (as amended)
  • Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
  • Notification of Conventional Tower Crane Regulations 2010 (as amended)
  • Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

Further information

If you need any further information on any of the Regulations or have a legal question relating to your work, contact your local UCATT Safety Rep or your Regional Office.

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