The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA), is the primary legislation covering occupational health and safety in the United Kingdom. The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing the Act.
The aim of the HSWA is to ensure practical compliance and help organisations understand and implement an ‘organisational intent’ to support health and safety. In particular the requirement for a health and safety policy enables the safety management structure to be publicised so all employees know how health and safety is dealt with.
For practical purposes, responsibility for the health and safety implications of work activity and employee welfare rests with the employer. The law also imposes duties on contractors, designers, suppliers, importers and manufacturers of articles and substances used at work, and employees. The self-employed have parallel sets of duties and usually interact with employers in the role of contractors.
The Health and Safety at Work Act is a pivotal piece of legislation, and try as politicians have to pull it apart, it has truly stood the test of time. Countless lives have been saved and many more workers have been protected from injury and illness because of it. As we look beyond its 40th birthday, we see an oft-imitated system that is the envy of the world.
But this success story, one of triumph of morality over hard-nosed profiteering, cannot be told without mention of previous generations and the many millions of people whose experiences brought it about.
It begins in 1800. Imagine that you are six years old and working in a cotton mill. There is an outbreak of malignant fever, which leaves many around you dead or dying. Physician Thomas Percival studies this and sends his recommendations to parliament.
The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802, sometimes known as the Factory Act 1802, places orders upon cotton mill owners with regard to the treatment of apprentices (mostly children) and sets requirements for mill cleanliness.
Although the act was ineffective in its implementation, it did pave the way for future factory acts, which would regulate the industry. The factory acts were a series of acts passed by parliament to limit the number of hours worked by women and children, first in the textile industry, then later in all industries. This sets the backdrop to the eventual Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Then, in the 1880s, we see the emergence of the production line. Imagine you are now a factory worker regarded by your well-heeled employer as little more than a component in a machine. It is consequently a monotonous and inhumane daily existence, which begins and ends just beyond the factory wall in a back-to-back terrace house without a garden, built cheaply and unsafely. The co-location of tasks in the process of production has arrived.
Next move forward three decades and across the Atlantic, from the Lancashire cotton mills to Henry Ford’s Detroit automobile plant. It is December 1913, and the eve of the first truly mechanised war. Your job at your work station is essentially one or two tasks on Ford’s rudimentary assembly line. Work is centred on repetition, fragmented experience and forensically monitored output. We begin to see an increasingly sophisticated division of labour. Perfection of this sequence resulted in the famous Model T Ford car.
Ford’s model of mass production was given its own name: Fordism. But the drive for increased production speeds resulted in a wide range of stress-related symptoms that became so familiar they also earned themselves a name: ‘Forditis’.
In the 1936 dark comedy Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin is the personification of the cog in a machine, a factory worker employed on an accelerating assembly line, where he screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery. He finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs amok, throwing the factory into chaos. He is sent to a hospital.
Worldwide the continued search for increased production line efficiency, coupled with the war time eras, resulted in a shell-shocked workforce. Remember time-and-motion studies? They have been in and out of fashion for many years. The aim was to find out who was working hard and who was not. But importantly they eventually raised the question of why? Did some work better when given a single small task to repeat over and over, or was frequent change of task key to reducing errors? Could it be that workers responded differently and acted as individuals?
Moving on through the post-second world war years and the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, we arrive at 1974 and the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act. You are now a female worker liberated by the drive for equality and emboldened by trade union membership. Autonomy has raised its head. People now want more control over the work they do.
Enlightenment, how can we make work better? We are not just talking about efficiency related to profit. Let’s change this assembly line to process thought, human need and emotion. Why would anyone adopt a job role which might do them harm? Of course, we can each think of many reasons why. So who was responsible for the health and safety of workers, and why?
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The truth of it is that the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was an enactment that consolidated a lot of existing and rather piecemeal legislation. It was no coincidence that it was enacted during a year when there had been a particularly large number of deaths from work-related accidents.
In 1970, an Employed Persons (Health and Safety) Bill had been introduced in the UK, and that same year the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed into US federal law.
This move by the US prompted Harold Wilson’s Labour government, in its last throes in 1970, to establish a committee of inquiry, chaired by Lord Robens. With an eye on the latest American initiative, the committee would consider this country’s legislation. It was a substantial task.
Edward Heath’s new Conservative government gave a proposed debate on the adopted US bill no parliamentary time, preferring to wait for the Robens Report.
Duly published in 1972, the report concluded, to put it simply, that there was too much law. Lord Robens noted: “One of the reasons why there is too much law is that every time a new technical situation arises an external agency imposes a new set of detailed rules. But one of the fundamental points in this document (the report) is that the primary responsibility for prevention lies with those who create the risk i.e. the management and the men.”
The report was instrumental. Following Labour’s return to power two years later, the recommendations were substantially enacted with the passage of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Looking back in 2008, Lord Grocott gave this glowing review of this pivotal legislation: “The record of the 1974 act speaks for itself. Between 1974 and 2007, the number of fatal injuries to employees fell by 73 per cent; the number of reported non-fatal injuries fell by 70 per cent.
“Between 1974 and 2007, the rate of injuries per 100,000 employees fell by a huge 76 per cent, and Britain had the lowest rate of fatal injuries in the European Union in 2003, which is the most recent year for which figures are available. The EU average was 2.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers; the figure in the UK was 1.1.”
Of course, the shrewd among you might also accredit the change of our infrastructure landscape as a contributing factor.
The act’s success is beyond doubt; the figures speak for themselves. But moving on to the present day, surely serious health and safety issues are no longer an issue? Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Today, imagine you are a call centre worker with a failing voice and serious back problems. The workstations and repetitive tasks may have changed – but Fordism is still alive and well. We have a service industry now overtaking the manufacturing production line of the early 20th century. Time-and-motion studies and target-driven performance indicators are still stifling employee health, safety and wellbeing.
There is much work to be done, but behind this historic tale of ground-breaking legislation and vastly improved statistics, there is also a personal story about you and me. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 paved the way for a life in which we in this country can now hope and aspire. For example, my son wants to work for NASA, and why not?
Without such advancements in health and safety, we would not have the safe working environments that have paved the way for progress in technology, science and innovation. This system has protected and nurtured those innovators who have created a world of work with limitless opportunities.
Looking past law and regulation, putting aside employers’ duties and employees’ acts and omissions, the story is not only about saving lives but also of allowing kids to aspire to become an astronaut.
But there is a twist to this tale. If my son can aspire to fly to the moon, why do hundreds and thousands of parents continue to lose sons and daughters in factory fires and building collapses in the south Asian garment industry? And why are thousands in the UK still dying from occupational health exposures?
If we truly believe in creating a world of work that is safe, healthy and sustainable, there is still a great deal more to do.
We should be proud of this legislation. I am hard pressed to think of any other act that has been as effective as ours. We should not think twice about the ‘elf and safety press we get. Instead let’s focus our energies on what we have achieved, pool our knowledge and expertise on maintaining what we have, and help those who are not quite there yet. No one would argue with this message: everyone has the right to come home to their families healthy and safe at the end of the working day.
And everyone has the right to be an astronaut if they want to be.
Article shared from SHPonline.co.uk and written by Jane White, research and information services manager at IOSH.
If you are responsible for managing dust health hazards in the workplace, then the new “Dust Hub” from the HSE is for you.
The site provides information to help employers control exposure to dust in the workplace. You can also access further information on dust from this site.
Dust is tiny, dry particles in the air and can be produced when materials are cut, drilled, demolished, sanded, shovelled, etc. This means many work activities can create dust. Dust is not always an obvious health hazard as the particles which cause the most damage are often invisible to the naked eye and the health effects of exposure can take many years to develop.
This timeline of health and safety legislation and events is shared from the HSE site.
HM Factory Inspectorate was formed
Mines Inspectorate was formed
The first women factory inspector were appointed
“I doubt very much whether the office of factory inspector is one suitable for women… The general and multifarious duties of an inspector of factories would really be incompatible with the gentle and home-loving character of a woman…”After several years of campaigning by the Women’s Protective and Provident League, the London Women’s Trades Council and others and amid growing support in Parliament, the first “Lady Inspectors”, May Abraham and Mary Paterson were appointed in 1893. They were based in London and Glasgow respectively and earned an annual salary of £200. Much of their early work involved enforcing the Truck Acts, investigating women’s hours of employment and enforcing health and safety in laundries.
The Quarry Inspectorate was formed
Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956
Nuclear Installations Act 1959 which established the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate
Flixborough chemical plant explosion (28 fatalities)
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
Health and Safety Commission established
Health and Safety Executive was formed
First HSC advisory committees established
First HSC annual report published
Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (S.I. 1977/500)
Golborne Colliery disaster (10 fatalities)
Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1980 (S.I. 1980/1248)
Notification of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1980 (S.I. 1980/637)
Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (S.I. 1981/917)
150th anniversary of HM Factory Inspectorate
HSE starts to enforce asbestos licensing industry
Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 (S.I. 1983/1649)
HSE starts to enforce genetic manipulation regulations
HSE starts to enforce domestic gas safety
Abbeystead pumping station (16 fatalities)
Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1984 (S.I. 1984/1902)
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1985 (S.I. 1985/2023)
Putney domestic gas explosion (8 fatalities)
HSE starts to enforce transport of dangerous goods by road safety
Fire at Bradford City Football Stadium – Valley Parade
Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985 (1985 No 1333)
HSE starts to enforce pesticide safety
Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987 (S.I. 1987/2115 )
Kings Cross underground station fire (31 fatalities)
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (S.I. 1988/1657 )
Clapham train crash (35 fatalities)
Piper Alpha oil installation fire and explosion (167 fatalities)
Noise at Work Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989/1790 )
Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989/635)
HSE starts to enforce rail safety
HSE starts to carry out nuclear safety research
HSE starts to enforce offshore safety
‘Six pack’ regulations
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/3004 )
Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2793 )
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2792 )
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2932 )
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2966 )
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2051 )
150th anniversary of the Mines Inspectorate
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 1994/3140)
Major Review of Regulation completed
100th anniversary of the Quarry Inspectorate
Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) becomes an agency of HSE
Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (S.I. 1996/1592 )
Southall rail accident
Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998/2451 )
40th anniversary of the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate
Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (S.I. 1999/743 )
Ladbroke Grove train crash (31 fatalities)
Bill Callaghan appointed as Chair of the Health and Safety Commission
‘Revitalising health and safety strategy’ launched
‘Securing health together occupational health strategy for Great Britain’ launched
HSC’s ‘Strategy for workplace health and safety to 2010 and beyond’ launched
Morecambe Bay: death of cockle-pickers (21 fatalities)
HSE’s Infoline service received its 2 millionth call
HSC’s ‘Strategy for workplace health and safety to 2010 and beyond’ launched
Explosion at ICL Plastic factory, Maryhill, Glasgow
Transfer of responsibility for railway safety from HSE to the Office of the Rail Regulator
Workplace Health Connect launched
Redgrave Court new headquarters officially opened
Responsibility for the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA) passes to HSE.
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2007) (S.I. 2007/320 ) launched.
Bill Callaghan is knighted for his services to health and safety
Judith Hackitt appointed as new Chair of the Health and Safety Commission, following on from the retirement of Sir Bill Callaghan
HSE takes on responsibility for the security activities of the Office for Nuclear Security (OCNS) and UK Safeguards Office (UKSO)
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) European Union regulations come into force in the UK and across Europe
Responsibility for the Adventure Licensing Authority (AALA) passes to HSE.
HSC/HSE merges to form one organisation
Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008
Pesticides Safety Directorate transfers to HSE
Gas Safe Register – 10 year contract to Capita
Health and safety law poster replaced – after 10 years service!
HSE launches strategy for the health and safety of GB
Health and Safety Pledge Forum launched
HSE introduces new Safety Alerts
The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010/1140)
Lord Young’s review of health and safety, ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ is published
Occupational Safety Consultants Register (OSHCR)
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) launched 1 April
HSL celebrates 100 years
Lőfstedt report published
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012/632 ) launched
Fee for Intervention (FFI) launched 1 October
The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations (S.I. 2013/645 )
Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Repeals, Revocations and Amendments) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/448 )
The Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Repeals, Revocations and Amendments) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/448 ) came into force on 6 April 2013. These Regulations are designed to revoke a series of redundant and / or out of date legislation, including one Act and twelve statutory instruments. HSE has introduced these Regulations as part of a process of ensuring that employers can quickly understand their duty to provide a safe and healthy working environment for employees.
On 6 April 2015, CDM 2007 was revoked and replaced by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015).
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) are the main set of regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects.
CDM 2015 is subject to certain transitional arrangements, for construction projects that began before 6 April 2015 and continue beyond that date. It applies to all building and construction work and includes new build, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance.
Key changes of the new CDM Regulations 20151. All projects must have:
- workers with the right skills, knowledge, training and experience
- contractors providing appropriate supervision, instruction and information
- a written construction phase plan
- principal designer and principal contractor must be appointed
- a health and safety file
- last longer than 30 working days and
- have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point in the project
- OR exceeds 500 person days
- Client must notify project to HSE
The Health and Safety Executive wants businesses that provide customer service to turn over a new leaf and stop blaming health and safety for poor or over-the-top decisions.
The regulator launched its 40th anniversary year with a call to stop the culture of blaming anything and everything on non-existent ‘health and safety’ rules.
Retail and leisure businesses feature prominently in new research (published today) by the University of Exeter, which reveals half of all cases put to HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel came from shops, cafes and leisure centres.
Traditionally January is a time when people want to get fitter, healthier, or take advantage of the sales. However, customers are being left increasingly frustrated by ridiculous decisions made in the name of health and safety, more often than not to cover up what is simply poor customer service.
These are just some of the many examples submitted by bemused customers to the challenge panel, which was set up to refute inaccurate or over-the-top decisions made for ‘health and safety reasons’.
The research which also looks at perceptions and understanding of health and safety regulation in society, found the fear of being sued, cost avoidance and lack of training were other key reasons behind the use of the health and safety myth.
Department for Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper said:
“The Health and Safety Executive has done fantastic work over the past 40 years to keep working people safe.
“Elf n safety’ myths get in the way of what the law is for – saving lives, not stopping people living them.
“No employer or worker should hide behind the health and safety excuses, if they act in a sensible way. If you hear of a bogus health and safety myth, report it to our panel.”
Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and the Myth Busters Challenge Panel said:
“HSE wants to encourage everyone, especially those working in leisure and retail, to make a resolution to stop using the health and safety catch-all excuse.
“Give the real reason for the decision you take. We want people to be honest – giving health and safety the blame is lazy and unhelpful.
“Customers are at the heart any business. Getting rid of over-the-top decisions blamed on health and safety will improve the service customers receive and enable the business to prosper.”
The 40 year old Health and Safety at Work Act’s rules are founded on common sense, but they’ve been hijacked by jobsworths
Summer is well under way, so we can expect the usual litany of patronising health and safety announcements on public transport and elsewhere. Among the blindingly obvious bits of advice that have apparently passed mankind by in the millennia since we started to walk upright are the following: we should wear loose-fitting clothes in the heat, make sure we drink plenty of water and sit down if we feel faint.
So how did an Act that was by any measure a milestone in social reform turn into one of the most disparaged statutes of recent times? Partly it has to do with the way the law is interpreted – and often wrongly blamed for absurd restrictions imposed on perfectly innocuous practices. But it also reflects an absolutist view that it is possible to avoid accidental injury or death, rather than simply to reduce the circumstances in which they might occur.
However, the restrictions that are now imposed in the name of health and safety were far from the minds of parliamentarians in June 1974, as they put the finishing touches to the new law. MPs and peers were aware that this was not only pioneering legislation but potentially of great significance. The Act’s purpose was to implement the recommendations of the Robens Committee, which reported in 1972 and concluded that the existing workplace safety legislation was over-elaborate and confusing, with about 30 Acts and 500 sets of regulations.
Robens recommended a new structure underpinned by an enabling Act setting out the basic principles of safety responsibility, thereby providing a statutory base on which all future regulations could be founded. New rules would, if possible, be confined to general statements of the objectives to be achieved. Robens wanted greater reliance on standards and codes and for no regulation to be made at all if a non-statutory alternative was available. While many might question whether the ambition of fewer rules was realised, the legislation certainly did what it said on the tin.
Before the Act, 700 employees were dying every year on average and hundreds of thousands were being injured. Last year, the number of fatalities at work was down to 148 and non-fatal injuries have dropped by more than 75 per cent. Even for those of us who balk at excessive regulation, that is a considerable achievement, not least when you think that 500 workers have died on construction sites in Qatar since 2012, building the infrastructure for the World Cup in 2022. That certainly puts a ban on flags into perspective.
Throughout our history, health and safety laws have often been a reaction to appalling tragedies. In his ill-starred response to the pit disaster in Soma last month, in which 300 miners died, the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited examples from Britain’s industrial past to justify his own government’s inadequacies.
“I went back in British history,” he said. “Some 204 people died there after a mine collapsed in 1838. In 1866, 361 miners died in Britain. In an explosion in 1894, 290 people died there.” Indeed they did – but what is important is to learn the lessons. For instance, in 1862, when the beam of a pumping engine at Hartley Colliery in Northumberland broke and blocked the only mineshaft and means of ventilation, suffocating 204 miners, new legislation required that every seam should have at least two shafts or outlets.
Even as the more recent Health and Safety at Work Act was going through Parliament, an explosion at a chemical plant at Flixborough near Scunthorpe killed 28 people. Subsequent regulations imposed new rules on manufacturers who use dangerous substances. Why the Act was important is that is set out to prevent the accidents happening in the first place, rather than reacting to the death and injuries they cause, by which time it’s too late.
Forty years on, the Act has achieved what it set out to do, which is to insist upon high standards of health and safety in places of work. All we need do now is to apply the law with the common sense that inspired it in the first place.
Article shared from The Telegraph.
Asbestos is responsible for over 4000 deaths every year. Younger people, if routinely exposed to asbestos fibres over time, are at greater risk of developing asbestos-related disease than older workers. This is due to the time it takes for the body to develop symptoms after exposure to asbestos (latency).
Exposure to asbestos can cause four main diseases:
- mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs – it is always fatal and is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos)
- asbestos-related lung cancer (which is almost always fatal)
- asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which is not always fatal but can be a very debilitating disease, greatly affecting quality of life)
- diffuse pleural thickening (a thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs which can restrict lung expansion leading to breathlessness).
The majority of the current fatal cases from asbestos exposure are associated with very high exposures from past industrial processes and installation of asbestos products.
For more information about asbestos, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/faq.htm
It’s as easy as ABCA risk assessment for using a tape measure and written guidance for walking up stairs – these are just two of the bizarre actions that some companies mistakenly believe are necessary.
These absurd steps were typical of several myths uncovered in an HSE survey. So to help anyone who wants to separate fact from fiction, HSE is encouraging small and medium sized employers to use its free online tools and guidance.
The H&S ABC provides simple information to help small firms save time, effort and money by identifying the things they really do and don’t need to do.
The results also revealed that one in five people (22 per cent) surveyed believed they weren’t capable of managing health and safety themselves and needed to hire a specialist consultant. Eleven per cent believed that a qualified electrician must test electrical appliances, such as kettles and toasters, every year – another persistent myth.
Nearly a third of small businesses surveyed classed themselves as ‘hopeful-have-a-gos’ when it came to health and safety – aware they have to take some action but unsure where to start or if what they are doing is correct.
Whether a business employs one or two people, or is expanding to multiple locations, the free online guidance will help even complete beginners get health and safety right.
Visit www.hse.gov.uk/abc to get started with sensible health and safety.
The government’s fervent desire to cut back on “key” health and safety legislation will increase accidents and fatalities in the workplace, says TUC.
For Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28th, the TUC alerted the public that workplace deaths are infrequently genuine accidents, and are more likely the result of serious employer negligence.
The union organisation’s commemorative report, Toxic, Corrosive and Hazardous: the government’s record on health and safety, warns that the coalition government has “drastically cut” health and safety inspections.
Despite this, it is estimated that around 20,000 people die each year as a direct result of injuries or health problems sustained whilst at work.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections, the report says, have experienced a 40 per cent cut to funding, compounded by a block on further regulation.
Shockingly, the report claims local authorities have dropped inspections by 93 per cent over the last four years. Further government proposals include H&S exemption for self-employed workers, a particularly vulnerable group for workplace accidents.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government says that the UK is a safe place to work and that we don’t need any more regulation. If only this were the case. With the UK ranked just 20th in the health and safety risk index of 34 developed nations, we’ve hardly got a record to be proud of”.
The TUC recommend the government reconsider and completely reverse their position on the importance of health and safety, instead ensuring that all workplaces are inspected regularly and providing further resources for the often overlooked area of occupational health.
Regulation must be upheld for workers who inhabit particularly dusty or otherwise carcinogenic environments, the report states, as well as ensuring that a maximum acceptable workplace temperature is enforced.
O’Grady added: “There is a real danger that further cuts and deregulation will destroy the workplace safety culture that has existed in Britain for many decades – with a disastrous effect on workers health and safety.
“But there is an alternative – a government that is committed to protecting workers and puts a stop to the large-scale negligence that claims the lives or health of far too many workers and costs the state billions of pounds”.
Article shared from www.theinformationdaily.com