Our Complete Guide To Health and Safety Legislation

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 you getting hurt at work or ill through work. Employers are legally responsible for health and safety, but everyone must help.

The main piece of legislation dealing with health and safety is the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. This sets the standards for all health and safety in the UK workplace.

Additionally, there are secondary pieces of health and safety legislation (regulations) which are more specific and cover a range of subjects. These regulations can be established quickly, which enables a rapid response to changing circumstances.

Together these form the legal framework for health and safety in the workplace.

See below for a summary of each piece of legislation.

List of Health and Safety Legislation

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

This is the basis of health and safety legislation relating to the workplace is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It is also known as HASAWA or HSW and most health and safety legislation is contained in it.

What are the Requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act?

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is based on common sense and safe practice. It places the duty on employers to take responsibility for the health and safety of their employees at work “as far as is reasonably practicable”.

In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk. 

The Responsibilities of the Employer

It is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their work activities.

Do Employees Have Any Responsibilities?

In short, yes. The longer version though; there are responsibilities for the employee too, they must:

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Also known as the ‘Management Regs’, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place a duty on employers to assess and manage risk.  More specifically, they require employers to do the following:

A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 apply to most places of work. They require employers to ensure the working environment is safe, as free from risk as is reasonably possible and that appropriate equipment is provided where necessary.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Cover:

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 protect DSE users. DSE users are workers who habitually use a workstation/DSE equipment for a significant time (generally more than an hour a day or regular use) in order to complete their work.

The Regulations also apply to DSE users who work at home or remotely, contractors and temporary workers. Under these regulations, employers must:

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 amended 2022

Under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, employers have a duty to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at work to protect staff against health and safety risks “wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways.”.

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PPE equipment that needs to be provided may include protective face masks, visors, helmets, goggles, gloves, ear protectors, overalls, safety boots, air filters, hairnets. Furthermore, employers must:

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 place duties on businesses and organisations who own, use or operate work equipment. Under these regulations, employers must ensure any equipment provided or used is:

Some equipment is also covered in other legislation. For instance, PPE equipment is covered by the PPE regulations.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 Amended 2002

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002 apply to a wide range of manual handling activities, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.

Who is Responsible for Manual Handling Regulations?

Employers have the primary responsibility.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations Require Employers to:

What About Employees?

Employees have responsibilities too. They should:

Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981

The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

Employers' legal duties

The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. 

What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in the workplace. This includes whether trained first-aiders are needed, what should be included in a first-aid box and if a first-aid room is required. Employers should carry out an assessment of first-aid needs to determine what to provide.

The Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989

 
 
The aim of the Regulations is to increase employees’ awareness of health, safety and welfare issues at work. They do this by requiring employers to provide employees with posters or leaflets approved by the Health and Safety Executive which contain information about health, safety and welfare.
 
Employers must provide employees with either an approved poster which must be positioned so it is easy to read or an approved leaflet. The poster or leaflet must be replaced when revised editions are available.

The Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969

The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 ensures that you have at least a minimum level of insurance cover against any such claims. Employers’ liability insurance will enable you to meet the cost of compensation for your employees’ injuries or illness whether they are caused on or off site.

RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013)

RIDDOR requires employers to record and report accidents and injuries at work.

The law applies where there is a dangerous occurrence, injury, accident or disease if the incident is work-related. When deciding if an occurrence is reportable, you should consider the following:

If the answer is No to any of the above, a report is probably not necessary.

What are ‘Reportable Incidents’?

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) replaced the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 and is designed to protect employees against risks to health and safety from exposure to noise within the workplace.

It requires employers to assess the risks to employees and take action where a risk has been identified.

What are employers required to do?

The CNWR requires employers to either eliminate the risk of exposure to noise for their employees or, where it is not reasonably practicable to do so, to reduce the risk to as low a level as possible. This has to be achieved by implementing a programme of organisational and technical noise control measures that are not limited to just the use of personal hearing protectors.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The ​Electricity at Work Regulations apply to all aspects of the use of electricity within the workplace. They place duties on employers, employees and the self-employed to prevent danger, carry out work on electrical systems carried out in a way that prevents danger

The Regulations apply to all electrical systems and equipment (as defined) whenever manufactured, purchased, installed or taken into use even if its manufacture or installation pre-dates the Regulations themselves.

COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) 2002

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations require employers to control the use, storage, transport of any substances which may be harmful to health in order to reduce the workers’ possible exposure.

COSHH covers a wide range of potentially hazardous substances including:

In order to reduce the workers’ possible exposure, employers must:

When using hazardous substances, employers should consider how these substances cause harm and whether a different substance or process can be used to reduce risk. For instance, painting rather than spraying paint reduces the risk or vapour inhalation.

COSHH does not cover asbestos, lead or radioactive substances because these have their own regulations.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order applies to England and Wales only. For Scotland refer to Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, supported by the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.  The Order is designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard in non-domestic premises such as the workplace.

Who is Responsible for Fire Safety in the Workplace?

In the workplace, the employer is the ‘Responsible Person’.  In order to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire and to identify people at risk, the Responsible Person is required to oversee fire safety and to carry a Fire Risk Assessment.  The Responsible Person can appoint a ‘Competent Person’ in this role however, the ultimate responsibility still lies with the employer.

What are the Requirements of the Fire Order?

The Order also requires fire risk assessments to be reviewed and kept up to date, and records maintained.

The Working Time Regulations 1998

The Working Time Regulations are based on two EU directives regarding the limits on working hours and further protection for young workers.

For Adult Workers the Key Protections are:

For Young Workers

There are further protections for young people (aged between 15 and 18), with the government providing up-to-date guidance.

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