The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, also known as HSWA, HSW Act or HASAWA, is the principal piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in the UK. The primary purpose of the Act is to secure the health, safety and welfare of employees (and other workers) at work. The full text, if you wish to read it, is available on the legislation.gov.uk website.
Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974
The legislation contains two main duties in sections 2 and 3 which we would like to highlight:
Section 2 of the 1974 Act S.2 (1) sets out the general duty that an employer owes to an employee – to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, their health, safety and welfare at work.
S.2 (2) sets out specific duties that the employer has – including the duty to provide and maintain safe a safe plant and safe systems of work, and to provide suitably information, instruction, training and supervision (among others).
Section 3 of the 1974 Act S.3 of the 1974 Act extends the duty owed to employees in S.2 (1) to cover non-employees. S.2 (3) extends this responsibility to cover the workplaces of the self-employed.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) takes responsibility for carrying out investigations and enforcing the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. Prosecutions are brought against employers who fail in their statutory duty and may be liable to pay accident compensation for an injury claim made against them.
Between 2011 and 2012, there were 551 HSE prosecuted cases in England and Wales. Of these 506 convictions (92 per cent) were secured by the HSE, while 95 cases in England and Wales were prosecuted by Local authorities. Between, 2011 and 2012, there were 22,433 serious injuries and a total of 111,164 reported non-fatal injuries reported by the HSE. As reported in the article below, 2011/12 saw two-thirds of fatal injuries being caused by four particular types of accident. These were being struck by a vehicle, a fall from height, being struck by a moving object or being trapped by a collapsing structure.Over half of all major injuries were due to slips, trips and falls from a height. These also accounted for nearly a third of over-3-day injuries. .
Some recent examples of companies who have been prosecuted:
- Trafford hotel chain fined £200,000 for asbestos danger.
- Chain ordered to pay £60K for health and safety violations.
- Solar panel firm fined for worker fall in Hampshire.
- Network Rail and signalman found guilty of Health and Safety violations.
- HSE launches safety clampdown on South East construction sites.
You can read further examples on the HSE website.
Most companies think it will never happen to them but ignoring Health and Safety can mean employees are left open to serious accidents, resulting in time off work or death. The company itself can face massive, crippling fines.
So What Do Companies Need To Do?
Companies need to have a Health and Safety Management system in place. As a minimum you should have a Safety Policy and Risk Assessments. Staff need to be sent on appropriate Occupational Health and Safety training courses. It’s that simple.
Investing in health and safety training will give your staff the knowledge needed for them to understand the risks inherent in their jobs and equally importantly will allow them to deal with these risks effectively and with confidence. And finally, it will also protect your business from prosecution!