Health and Safety at Work Act

Here we provide an introduction to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, also known as HASAWA, with a summary of the main points of the legislation and what is means for UK businesses and employers.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Safety at work is a serious concern for many people. While there are some jobs that carry minimal risk, there are also some that can be incredibly dangerous without the proper safety precautions.

Of course, even the safest job has risks. Even if that risk is falling over a misplaced handbag.

Because of the inherent risks associated with the workplace, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) was implemented in 1974. The purpose of this act was and is to ensure that employers provide the safest possible work environment for their employees.

There are many sections to this act that detail specific situations and how employers must handle them. It also details the health and safety regulations that must be adhered to in order to provide a safe area.

It is incredibly vital for all employers to be up to date on the rules and regulations outlined within the Health and Safety at Work Act. There are similar acts in other parts of the world, but each one is unique. This is largely because there are different concerns in different locations.

Of course, there are some things that seem to be universal. For example, the necessity to provide up-to-date and properly serviced equipment.


What Regulations are Outlined in HASAWA?

There are a multitude of sections with this act that over a wide range of situations, requirements, and responsibilities of employers. The primary purpose of this act is to ensure the safety of all employees of a company as well as self employed contractors, visitors, clients, and anyone else on the premises.

One aspect of this involves the building itself. There are many technical terms involved in any given section of the Health and Safety at Work Act, the building section included.

Simply put, however, the building where a business resides must be kept up to code. This includes maintenance to the structure as well as ensuring there are no hazards present within the building. This means that all safety equipment must be functional and up-to-date.

Another important part of this vital act is the storage and use of dangerous materials. There are guidelines for how any such substances must be stored while on the premises as well as how they are to be handled and transported. This includes the type of containers that must be used, protective clothing that must be worn, and other important details.

It is also important that employees feel safe while at work. This means that a worker should never fear going to work. There are a multitude of things that contribute to feeling safe within the workplace. The vast majority of these things are outlined within this act. It is important to consider that there is also some responsibility on the employee.

It is entirely possible that an employee can cause a situation that can harm themselves and/or others. If this is the case, the employee can be held liable instead of the employer. This, too is outlined with this act.

Training is another big part of health and safety in the workplace. Therefore, the Health and Safety at Work Act dictates that employers must provide all necessary training to ensure employees know how to safely use equipment and perform tasks.

Employers are required to submit a written safety policy and risk assessment. Said employer should be able to provide this document at any given time. This document should be on file at the place of business in an easily accessible file.

There are a number of related laws, such as the Food Safety Act 1990 to cover catering and hospitality environments.


Enforcement of Health and Safety Legislation

There are inspectors whose responsibility it is to keep check on businesses and enforce any rules or health and safety legislation that are not being addressed. Inspectors have certain rights as outlined within the HASAWA that allows them to better enforce the regulations.


Powers of a Health & Safety Inspector

A Health & Safety Inspector has the following legal powers:

  • see and obtain copies of various documents
  • seek assistance from local police or colleagues
  • examine and investigate various aspects of the business
  • entry to the business without an appointment at any reasonable time
  • the ability to procure any substances and dismantle any equipment
  • take any article or substance that is an imminent danger to people in the area
  • ask questions relevant to their investigations.


Health and Safety at Work Act Summary

There are several actions that can be taken if a business is found to be violating any part of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The first potential action is a legal notice. This is a written document that advises the person in question of the problem.

It then advises them of what they need to do in order to come under compliance. There are generally two types of legal notices.

The first is one of prohibition. It can be detailing the use of certain equipment or a practice that is deemed unsafe.

The second is one of improvement. It details things that need to be changed and set a time frame for these improvements to be completed within.

The next type of enforcement is prosecution. It is possible for both employers and employees to face this type of enforcement. This can include fines and/or imprisonment. There is no limit on the potential fines incurred.


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