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What Is Health And Safety Legislation In The UK?


In the realm of workplace health and safety, understanding the various legislations is of paramount importance as they contribute to maintaining a healthy, safe, and compliant work environment. Employees should be able to work effectively in an environment where they do not feel at risk. 

Follow our comprehensive guide where we look at the key health and safety legislation in the UK and discuss the responsibilities of both employers and employees in detail.

What Is Health And Safety Legislation?

construction site that must adhere to health and safety legislation

Health and safety legislation refers to a set of laws, policies and regulations designed to promote and protect the health, safety and welfare of individuals at work. It also includes proactive measures to prevent accidents, injuries and illnesses. Health and safety regulations cover a wide range of areas, such as the use of machinery, handling of hazardous substances, provision of personal protective equipment, and fire safety.

Health And Safety At Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is a primary piece of legislation often dubbed the  cornerstone of health and safety legislation in the UK. It places a duty of care on all employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work. 

It is the employers duty under this act to deliver a safe and healthy workplace, where they are expected to:

  • Provide a safe system of work
  • Create a safe place of work
  • Provide safe equipment, plant, and machinery
  • Have safe and competent people on site

Employers are liable for the actions of their staff and managers but health and safety is also the responsibility of the employee. Therefore it is imperative that they take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work. Employees should not interfere with or disrupt anything put in place to aid health and safety at work, and must pay any requisite fines and penalties due to breaches in health and safety.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992

man using computer to show the DSE regulations as part of the health and safety regulations in the UK

There are a wide variety of health and safety acts covering a multitude of industries. The Display Screen Equipment Regulations (DSE) of 1992 focuses on the health and safety of employees who utilise computers or other display screen equipment as a key component of their job description. These regulations specify the responsibilities of the employer, which include:

  • Workstation assessments
  • Appropriate equipment positioning
  • Frequent work breaks
  • Providing eye sight tests on request.

The objective of this important piece of legislation is to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and eye strain. Compliance with DSE Regulations is not only a legal requirement but it also provides a practical approach to ensuring the well-being of workers. 

From an employee perspective, it is their duty to utilise DSE according to guidance set out by their employer and report any discomfort or health problems that may arise. They must cooperate with their employers in implementing safety measures and attend any training sessions offered. Furthermore, employees are encouraged to take frequent breaks, vary their work tasks and maintain correct ergonomic postures to minimise the risk of musculoskeletal problems.

Management Of Health And Safety At Work Regulations 1999

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) were introduced as a way of reinforcing the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Focusing on the systematic management of health and safety in the workplace, these regulations require employers to: 

  • Identify hazards that could cause illness or injury
  • Carry out health and safety risk assessments
  • Implement measures to control risks
  • Provide information and training to employees, and ensure the competence of those responsible for health and safety.

Although these health and safety regulations are predominantly in place for employers, they do stipulate certain duties for employees. These duties include reporting any health and safety shortcomings or dangerous situations, using equipment accordingly, and taking reasonable care of their own health and safety as well as that of anyone affected by their work. These duties supplement and support the employee’s duties under section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (often known as RIDDOR) pertains to record keeping within health and safety legislation. It is a law that requires employers, and anyone else in charge of work premises, to report and keep records of injuries, work-related fatalities, and diagnosed cases of reportable occupational diseases. RIDDOR categorises reportable incidents into four main types: 

  • Death
  • Major injuries
  • Over-seven-day injuries
  • Dangerous occurrences

RIDDOR’s primary aim is to ensure the prompt reporting of such incidents to the relevant enforcing authority, typically the local HSE. Only competent people are required to submit reports, employees do not have a legal responsibility to report incidents under RIDDOR. An appointed competent person includes employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises, for instance the manager of the site where an incident has taken place.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations 2018

ear defenders as part of PPE used to uphold health and safety regulations

Employees should be able to fulfil their job requirements without risk of harm, which is why there are specific health and safety regulations around PPE equipment. PPE is essential as it provides a physical barrier between the employee and a potential hazard. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations of 2018 set out the requirements for employers regarding the provision, use, and maintenance of PPE in the workplace. It is primarily for employees working in potentially hazardous environments such as healthcare. These regulations make it a legal requirement that employers: 

  • Provide employees access to free of charge suitable protective equipment, such as helmets, gloves, and safety goggles, to mitigate risks and safeguard their well-being
  • Train and guide employees on the correct use of equipment
  • Check equipment regularly and keep their PPE inspection register up-to-date

There are many different types of injuries which can be caused by a worker having inappropriate or improper equipment. Therefore, employees also have various responsibilities that they must fulfil under PPE health and safety law. These include:

  • Properly using the safety equipment in accordance with the training they have received
  • Taking reasonable care of the PPE provided and not attempting any unauthorised modifications or repairs
  • Visually examining the PPE equipment before use to identify any potential faults or developing problems, and reporting them without delay
  • Returning the equipment to the proper storage areas after use, except if it is normal practice to take it home overnight e.g. PPE footwear and clothing
  • Reporting any loss of PPE equipment immediately to avoid any unnecessary risks in its absence

Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHOR) 1992

Lifting, manoeuvring, pulling and pushing are all examples of manual handling, which occurs in most sectors across a wide range of organisations. The main policy in the UK dedicated to this area of health and safety law is Manual Handling Operations Regulations of 1992. Its main aim is to prevent injuries caused by manual handling tasks in the workplace. The responsibilities of employers under MOHR are defined by The Health and Safety Executive in three concise steps:

  • Avoid hazardous manual handling operations ‘so far as reasonably practicable’
  • Assess the risk of injury to employees from unavoidable hazardous manual handling
  • Reduce the risk of injury to employees from hazardous manual handling to ‘as low as reasonably practicable’

Carrying out risk assessments, providing training for employees and implementing control measures are key examples of how an employer can adhere to these health and safety regulations, which in turn reduces the risk of injuries and promotes employee safety. 

As with many health and safety acts in the UK, the main responsibilities fall upon the employer, however, employees must use the equipment provided by their employer safely. They must also work together with their employer and fellow employees to ensure legal obligations are met, and the controls and systems of work defined in the risk assessments are used.

Health And Safety Training With Rhino Safety

At Rhino Safety, we understand that health and safety law can be a difficult field to navigate, so, let our team of experts take the stress out of it. We work with companies of all sizes, in a wide range of industries for all of their health and safety needs. Think of us as your outsourced health and safety department, and discover how we can help you by taking a look at our full range of health and safety services, or alternatively get in touch with our team today to take the next step.

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