Happy Anniversary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Act is the primary piece of health and safety legislation in Great Britain and received Royal Assent 40 years ago and has saved thousands of lives, prevented many more injuries at work and reduced economic and social costs since it has been in place. When the Act came into being in 1974, over 650 people lost their lives at work. Now, 40 years later, that number has dropped to a record low of 133 – a drop of 85%.
When introduced the Act swept away a raft of prescriptive, industry specific, rule based legislation and introduced broad goal setting regime that put the responsibility for managing health and safety firmly with those best place to manage the risks.
The Act gives people a broad legal right to be protected from work related risks and imposes a range of duties on employers, the self-employed and employees as well as others such as designers, manufacturers or suppliers of articles and substances for use at work. These are expressed as broad general duties within the Act but are supported in some circumstances by subsidiary regulations such as those dealing with the management of health and safety and specific health and safety issues. The Act is designed to deliver a proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach to health and safety.
It is sometimes tempting for Employers to regard Health & Safety at Work compliance as a nuisance to be avoided if at all possible but the statistics speak for themselves and as well as saving lives and reducing the number of injuries at work, good health & safety practise adopted with an eye to common sense helps to minimise time lost by employers to accidents and also reduces the risk of being the subject of a personal injury claim or prosecution.