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What Does the Health and Safety at Work Act Cover?

Passed as an Act of Parliament, the Health and Safety at Work Act came into law in 1974 and is the main piece of Health and Safety legislation in the United Kingdom. The act places a duty on employers to ensure that all workers are healthy, safe, and have general welfare at work, where reasonably possible. So what does the Health and Safety at Work Act cover - also known as HSWA, HASAWA, or HSW Act? We’ll take a deeper look.


Who is responsible for enforcing the HSWA?

The Health and Safety Executive, along with local authorities are responsible for enforcing the HSWA as well as a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the work environment.

Why was the Act brought into law?

Before 1974 around 8 million employees had no legally mandated safety protection at work. The HSWA provides the legal framework to encourage high standards of health and safety in order to reduce workplace accidents.

Who must comply with the Act?

Everyone has a duty to comply and keep safe, which includes employers, employees, trainees, self-employed persons, manufacturers, suppliers, designers, and importers of work equipment.

What are employers’ responsibilities?

Employers must conduct a risk assessment of their workplace, and “ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety, and welfare at work of all their employees.”

Employers must:

  • Provide and maintain safety equipment.
  • Provide a safe system of work.
  • Ensure materials used are stored properly, handled correctly, and used and transported safely.
  • Provide information, training, instruction, and supervision of the use of safety equipment and how to stay safe in the work environment.
  • Ensure staff understand instructions provided by manufacturers and suppliers of equipment.
  • Provide a safe workplace.
  • Provide a safe working environment.
  • Provide a written safety policy and risk assessment.
  • Look after the health and safety of others.
  • Provide protective equipment for free.
  • Employers are forbidden to charge employees for any measures which are required to provide for the health and safety of employees - such as personal protective equipment.
  • Consult employees on health and safety issues.

How can I protect my employees?

Since slips, trips, and falls are the most common workplace accident, it’s important that you provide slip-resistant flooring, matting, and shoes where reasonably possible. If slip-resistant floors and slip-resistant mats are not able to be provided, be sure to prioritize slip-resistant footwear. For some industries, slip-resistant footwear is mandated as appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as determined by a risk assessment - these shoes may also have to have, for example, steel toes, or waterproofing. You’ll need to analyze your workplace to see what footwear is best to keep your employees safe. Slip-resistant footwear can eliminate preventable workplace accidents.




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Be sure to consider how you can protect your employees as well with speciality clothing and protective equipment too. Put up warning and safety signs in the appropriate places to warn employees of any workplace hazards and dangers. Design your spaces with safety in mind and put any measures in place to keep employees safe.

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