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Health and Safety at Work


Every business has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of employees arising from the UK Health and Safety at Work Act which was introduced following the Aberfan disaster.

There are many Regulations and Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) but not all will be relevant to a particular workplace.

Guidance for new businesses can be found on the HSE website.

Guidance on getting started

Below are some of the terms you may come across with links to where more information can be found on the HSE website. 

The Six Pack

The 'Six Pack' is a set of 6 documents that are the UK implementation of EU directives. These are,

1) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations

These detail the duties of employers to put in place Health and Safety arrangements. In particular,  Regulation 3 requires that:-

'Each employer or self employed person must carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the risk to employees and other persons such as contractors and members of the public from the work activity'.

Leading on from the Risk Assessment, staff should be given appropriate instruction, supervision, information and training so that they can carry out their tasks safely.

2) The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations

These deal with basic issues applicable to most workplaces such as toilets, washing facilities, lighting and ventilation.

A short guide for managers can be found on the HSE website.

3) The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations

These deal with the 'comfort' of people working with computer keyboards and displays. Click on the following link for more information.

Guidance on the ergonomics of working with computers

4) The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations (PPE)

These deal with for example,

  1. Head protection (eg hard hats)
  2. Eye protection (eg safety glasses and welding goggles)
  3. Hearing protection (eg ear muffs/plugs)
  4. Body protection  (eg aprons, overalls and high vis clothing)
  5. Hand protection (eg chemical resistant gloves)
  6. Foot protection (eg safety shoes and boots)
  7. Respiratory protection (eg dust mask or respirator)

PPE should be used only as a last line of defence. Ideally,

  • Eliminate the hazard
  • Use safer alternative
  • Isolate or confine
  • Control by plant design
  • Reduce time of exposure

PPE should be marked to a British Standard, be unique to the individual, safely stored and checked periodically that it is fit for purpose. 

5) The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)

These important regulations require that equipment provided in the workplace  is fit for purpose, that staff are trained to use it, and that the equipment is periodically inspected and safely maintained. There are special provisions for mobile equipment such as Fork-Lift trucks.

Lifting equipment is also subject to the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).

Simple Guide to the PUWER regulations

6) The Manual Handling Operations Regulations

The HSE guide Getting to Grips with Manual Handling contains valuable guidance on assessing Manual Handling tasks. The table on page 10 of the guide contains useful guidance on what can be safely lifted. Obviously the health and fitness of the individual, repetition and environmental factors also need to be considered.

Other terms an employer needs to be familiar with include:-

Risk Assessment

The Risk Assessment is the cornerstone of Health and Safety. In simple terms this involves, before work starts, thinking about what might go wrong and putting in place measures to prevent accidents happening.

HSE guide to Risk Assessment

Fire Risk Assessment

Fire Risk Assessments are no longer the responsibility of the Fire Brigade but of the Employer (or person in control of the premises).

The key aim, in the event of a fire, is to get people out to a place of safety within about two minutes. In a large hotel for example this might involve smoke sensors linked to an alarm system, smoke doors to limit the spread of smoke during evacuation, emergency lighting in case the power goes off, signs along the escape route, and notices telling staff and guests what to do in an emergency. Arrangements must also be made to protect handicapped people.

Practical advice for business

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)

The RIDDOR regulations place a legal duty on employers to report over 3 day injuries, major injuries, death, work related diseases, and dangerous occurences.

Working at Height

These regulations have been made to prevent the deaths and injuries caused by falls at work, whether caused by a fall from a roof or a fall into a trench.

Guide to the Work at Height regulations

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

The COSHH regulations are concerned with controlling the potential health risk from biological agents, chemicals and dust.

HSE guide to the COSHH regulations

A risk assessment should be carried out before a substance is used or a process is changed, taking account of both the Safety Data sheet information obtainable from the manufacturer, and how, where and how much is being used.

The workplace exposure limits are specified in a separate document called EH40.

About workplace Exposure Limits

Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) refers to extraction equipment and fume cupboards which needs to be inspected annually.

Improvement and Prohibition Notices

An Improvement notice served by an HSE inspector allows work to continue, while the improvements are put in place by a set time.

If a prohibition notice is served work must stop until the safety deficiencies are rectified.

Flagrant disregard of safety and ignoring a prohibition notice can lead to criminal prosecution.


Employers will be liable to pay claims for negligence if,

  • The accident was foreseeable, and

  • Nothing was done to prevent it, and

  • An employee or member of the public is injured

Therefore it is advisable to keep written records of risk assessments, inspections, staff training etc.

Industry Specific Advice

Help is available on the HSE web site. For example click for,

Motor Vehicle Repair

This guidance was drawn up in 2000. If appropriate check with the HSE or IOSH for latest information.

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