The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act
The Health and Safety at Work Act was first published in 1974 and, following consultation, became law on April 1st 1975. The act introduced the concept of "goal setting" in which the end results expected are specified and it is then up to employers to make arrangements to achieve the results. This places an onus upon employers to take all steps which are "reasonable and practicable" to look after the health, safety and welfare of their employees while they are at work. The definition of the phrase "so far as is reasonably practicable" is that employers must look at the risks their employees are exposed to and then take steps to remove those risks. The act is policed by H. M. Factory Inspectorate along with Environmental Health Officers. They will look at any given risk in a workplace and offset that risk against both the cost and inconvenience of removing it. If the one is disproportionate to the other then they will not enforce it. Obviously the decision as to whether the actions took by the Employer were reasonable and practicable can only be decided in a court of law.
Punitive punishments (Click Here) are available to the courts for breaches of health and safety legislation including an unlimited fine and up to two years imprisonment! From time to time the government brings out various alterations to the legislation and one of the most far reaching of these changes occurred on 1st January 1993 with the introduction of the so called "six pack" regulations. This in itself has been updated with the introduction of Loler and Puwer (Click Here) in December 1999.
For anyone who thinks that health and safety legislation is unimportant or just a necessary evil the following statistics (Click Here) be of interest.
The HSE have their own web site (Click Here) which should prove a useful tool. Although mainly aimed at the Health and Safety professional it is well worth a visit for those with a casual interest in workplace safety.