Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- Date Act passed:
- 31 Jul 1974
- Act status:
- Statutory instrument ref:
- 1974 c.37
- Jurisdiction of the Act:
- England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Who enforces the Act:
- £20,000 fine, or unlimited fine if convicted on indictment.
Official description of the Act
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 was introduced on 31 July 1974 to provide a comprehensive and integrated piece of legislation dealing with the health and safety of people at work and the protection of the public from work activities.
The Act imposes a duty of care on everyone at work related to their roles. This includes employers, employees, owners, occupiers, designers, suppliers and manufacturers of articles and substances for use at work. It also includes self-employed people.
The Act covers:
- the health and safety of people at work;
- protection of other people affected by work activities; and
- the control of risks to health and safety from articles and substances used at work.
Employers’ main general duties are to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, in particular:
- the provision of safe plant and systems of work;
- the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;
- the provision of any required information, instruction, training and supervision;
- a safe place of work, including safe access and egress; and
- a safe working environment with adequate welfare facilities.
When five or more people are employed the employer must:
- prepare a written general health and safety policy;
- set down the arrangements for putting that policy into effect;
- revise and update the policy as necessary; and
- bring the policy and arrangements to the notice of all employees.
Every employer and self-employed person is under a duty to conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment (and themselves for self-employed) who may be affected, are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Those in control of non-domestic premises have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the premises, the means of access and exit, and any plant or substances are safe and without risks to health.
Two main duties are placed on employees:
- To take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.
- To cooperate with their employer and others to enable them to fulfil their legal obligations.
The Act also bestows powers on inspectors, giving them the authorisation to enter premises at any reasonable time (or any time in a dangerous situation), and to:
- examine and investigate;
- require premises or anything in them to remain undisturbed for purposes of examination or investigation;
- take measurements, photographs and recordings;
- take possession of or retain anything for examination or legal proceedings;
- require any person who can give information to answer questions and sign a statement. Evidence given under this Act cannot be used against that person or their spouse;
- require information, facilities, records or assistance;
- do anything else necessary to enable them to carry out their duties;
- initiate prosecutions; and
- seize, destroy or render harmless any article or substance which is a source of imminent danger.
Official link to the Act