The law

The law at a glance

All people have a legal right to be protected from work related risks.
In general the law imposes a range of duties of employers, the self employed and employees as well as others such as designers, manufacturers or suppliers of articles and substances for use at work. These are expressed as broad general duties in the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act but are spelt out in more detail in subsidiary regulations such as those dealing with the management of health and safety and specific health and safety issues.

While most modern health and safety law applies 'across-the-board', there are also additional regulations covering industry sectors such as construction, agriculture, railways, mines and quarries and major hazard and nuclear installations.
Besides laying down duties the law also gives the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority inspectors wide ranging powers - to prosecute and to issue notices halting dangerous work or requiring improvements.
Guidance on complying with the law is contained in Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs) and HSE guidance notes. Guidance in British and International standards as well as industry guidance may also be relevant.

Some of the key requirements of health and safety law can be summarised very briefly as follows:

A - Employers
1. General Duty of Care
All employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have a duty to protect non-employees from risks arising out of their work activities. [Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, hereafter HSWA 1, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, hereafter MHSW 2].
2. Health and Safety Management System
Employers must take and give effect to adequate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of protective and preventive measures. They must record these arrangements (where five or more are employed) - for example, as part of their health and safety policy statement (see below). [MHSW]
3. Safety Policy Statement
A written policy statement must be prepared (if five or more persons are employed) covering the employer's organisation and arrangements in force for ensuring health and safety. It must be brought to the attention of all employees. [HSWA]
4. Competent Persons
An adequate number of 'competent' persons have to be appointed, with sufficient time and resources at their disposal, to assist the employer to comply with his legal duties and to implement emergency arrangements (see below). Competent health and safety advisers can be either employees with appropriate qualifications and experience or professionally qualified consultants. [MHSW]
5. Risk Assessment
'Suitable and sufficient' risk assessments must be carried out by the employer. The purpose is to identify hazards, assess the probability that harm may arise from them and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures. [MHSW] (This duty is elaborated in regulations dealing with specific hazards and issues eg. substances hazardous to health, hereafter COSHH 3, and Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, hereafter DSE 4).
6. Tackling Risks at Source
The workplace must be made safe without risks to health. So far as is reasonably practicable, accidents and work related health damage should be prevented by tackling risks at source, using engineering means in preference to systems of work, personal protective equipment only being an acceptable alternative where risks cannot be controlled by such other means. [MHSW, ACoP].
7. Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision
Employees must be given comprehensible information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety and that of others. [HSWA, MHSW and other regulations eg. COSHH].
If you employ anyone, you must display the health and safety law poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it. Available from the HSE:
8. Cooperation and Co-ordination
Employers sharing workplaces must co-operate and co-ordinate their activities to ensure that they can meet their health and safety responsibilities. [MHSW]
9. Hazardous Agents
Exposure to hazardous agents such as dust, fumes, noise, vibration, radiation or harmful micro-organisms must be eliminated or adequately controlled. [HSWA, COSHH, Noise at Work Regulations (NAWR) 5, Ionising Radiations Regulations (IR) 6, Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAW) 7, Control of Lead at Work Regulations (CLAW) 8]. Sites with more than 25 tonnes of hazardous substances must be notified to HSE. [The Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 9]
10. Health Surveillance
Arrangements should be made for any necessary health surveillance of employees and appropriate records should be kept. [MHSW, COSHH, CAW, CLAW and IR]
11. Work Equipment
All work equipment must meet essential safety requirements and safe systems of work must be established. Risks from work with Display Screen Equipment must be assessed and controlled. [Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 10, DSE]. There are still residual requirements in specific machinery type regulations eg. woodworking machinery regulations, power press regulations etc.
12. Personal Protective Equipment
Where risks cannot be controlled at source (see point 6 above), appropriate personal protective clothing and/or equipment should be provided free of charge. [HSWA and Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 11]
13. Articles and Substances
Articles and substances should be safe and without risks to health when properly used. They must be: properly designed; tested; packaged; labelled; accompanied by adequate information; and moved, stored and used safely. [HSWA, Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations 12]
14. Special Precautions
Special precautions should be taken against entry into confined spaces and working at height. Harmful manual handling should be eliminated. Lifting plant and pressure systems should be regularly eliminated. Safe use of electricity and site transport should be ensured. [HSWA, Manual Handling Operations Regulations 13, PUWER, Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 14, Electricity at Work Regulations 15]
15. Emergency Arrangements
Adequate emergency arrangements must be in place under the control of 'competent persons'. There must also be suitable procedures for employees to report serious and imminent danger as well as shortcomings in health and safety arrangements. [MHSW]
16. Fire
Adequate precautions should be taken against fires and explosions and adequate means of escape and fire fighting equipment should be provided. [Fire Precautions Act 16]
17. Workplace Requirements
Essential workplace requirements should be ensured, including those concerning temperature, cleanliness, working space, ventilation, lighting, safe access and egress (including traffic routes). Adequate welfare and first aid facilities should be provided. [Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 17 and Workplace Health Safety and Welfare (WHSW) Regulations 18]. Existence of commercial or industrial premises must be notified to the appropriate enforcing authority.
18. Reporting and Recording
Accidental injuries, dangerous occurrences and notifiable occupational diseases should be reported to the appropriate enforcing authority and records kept. Records also have to be kept of the results of workplace environmental monitoring, health surveillance and maintenance etc. [Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, (RIDDOR) 19, COSHH]
From 6 April 2012, Parliamentary approval, RIDDOR's reporting requirement changed. The trigger point increased from over three days' to over seven days' incapacitation (not counting the day on which the accident happened).
19. Safety Representatives, Safety Committees and Consultation
Employers must consult their workforce on health and safety matters. When the employer recognises a trade union, that union has the right to appoint safety representatives who must be consulted on all matters affecting the health and safety of employees they represent and be permitted to carry out their functions. If requested to do so, the employer must establish a joint safety committee. Safety representatives are entitled to paid time off to attend TUC or union approved training courses. {Health and Safety: Consultation with Employees Regulations 20] [Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 21]
20. Insurance
All employers must have specific insurance to provide compensation to employees following successful civil law claims for damages in the event of work related injury or damage to health.


Arion is an accredited company for the delivery of training underwritten by; the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Institution of occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the First Aid at Work Council.


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