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The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Explained

schedule 19th July 2019 by Virtual College in Health and Safety Last updated on 22nd July 2019

health and safety act 1974

Why is Health and Safety so important?

Health and safety in the workplace needs to be a key priority for office and site managers to safeguard staff and reduce the risk of preventable accidents, injuries and even fatalities.

It is vital that employers take this seriously, as statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that some 609,000 workplace injuries were recorded in 2017-18, along with 144 workplace fatalities, while a total of 1.3 million people in the UK suffer from a work-related illness.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Within British workplaces, the primary piece of legislation which is responsible for health and safety standards is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – sometimes shortened to HASAWA or HSW. This legislation outlines a number of responsibilities that employers have in regards to their employees and maintaining a safe workplace environment.

The following are points which summarise the safety standards put forward by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:

  • Staff training is required in order for employees to understand basic health and safety procedures and their importance within the workplace
  • Businesses must have welfare provisions to cover all staff
  • All working environments on the premises must be properly maintained in regards to safety standards in order to minimise risk
  • Relevant information about on-site health and safety procedures must be available to staff to consult, as well as instruction and supervision from the designated responsible person

The government body responsible for establishing the HSW is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which also acts as a regulator in association with local authorities to monitor safety standards within businesses. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 contains a number of enforceable powers which allows the HSE to assess employers to ensure their responsibilities are being met, as well as penalising employers for non-compliance in line with the safety standards within the legislation.

Top Health and SafetyFAQs


What is fire safety?

Fire safety is a set of procedures which aim to reduce the amount of damage and injuries caused by fires. These include risk assessments to help identify and reduce areas of fire risk and formulate an emergency and evacuation plan in the event that a fire does break out.

How often should you do fire safety training?

Whenever new staff join the business, you’ll need to ensure they’re trained on your fire safety procedures. In addition to this, if anything changes within your business which adds new risks, you will need to inform all staff of the new fire risks.

Is manual handling training a legal requirement?

Under the Manual Handling Regulations you are legally obliged to ensure all employees are trained and competent in manual handling if their responsibilities may include manual handling.


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Many of the responsibilities which are covered within the HSW contain the caveat ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, which gives employers room to provide a rationale as to why certain safety measures haven’t been implemented, such as the cost greatly outweighing the potential risk. However, this rationale would need to hold up against risk assessments and key safety measure cannot simply be ignored due to cost restrictions.

We offer various courses which cover the individual elements relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, such as our Awareness of Health and Safety at Work course and a Manual Handling in the Workplace course, but the best option which covers all potential aspects for your business is the Health and Safety subscription training package. This gives you 12 months of continuous access to 11 separate Health and Safety courses to keep you up-to-date on all regulations and ensure you’re full compliant with the HSW legislation, with a 60% saving compared to buying the courses individually.

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Author: Virtual College

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