Things you need to know about Health and Safety Law

Things you need to know about Health and Safety Law

Published November 5, 2019

2 minute read

Health and Safety legislation is perceived to be complex and difficult to understand. However, in actual fact, a large proportion is common sense and it is only important to understand the areas that apply to your organization.

There are two types of legislation - Criminal and Civil.

What is criminal legislation?


This allows the state to punish a business/person for breaking the law or the land. The venue for the case would be a Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court in England and Wales. In Scotland, a Sheriff Court or High Court would deal with the majority of cases and in Ireland, these would be held in the Circuit Court or the Circuit Criminal Court.


What is civil legislation?


This allows an action from one person against another for negligence. The purpose of this is to claim compensation. The venue for the case would be a County Court or High Court in England and Wales, In Scotland, this would be a Sheriff Court or Court of Session and in Ireland, the
Circuit Court.
How aware are you of the risks in your company?


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974


This law places duties on employers, employees, designers and manufacturers, some
self-employed and the occupiers of buildings in which persons work.


Health and Safety Policy


It is the duty of every employer to prepare and regularly revise a written statement of the health and safety policy. The essential elements of this policy are:

  1. A statement of intent
  2. Organization - to clearly state to people their duties and accountability
  3. Arrangements - systems/procedures that ensure that work is carried out safely

Read also our guide: How to become ISO 45001 certified


Employers must:

  • Ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable: The health, safety and welfare of all employees
  • Provide necessary information, instruction, training and supervision
  • Provide a safe place of work including access and egress
  • Provide a safe environment and safe systems of work
  • The safe use, handling, storage and transport or articles and substances
  • Ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of others - this includes visitors, contractors, customers and patients


Employers must also:

  • Carry out risk assessments
  • Appoint competent persons
  • Plan, organize, control, monitor and review preventive and protective measures

Looking to make your health and safety work more efficient? Read our guide: "What should I look for in a safety management system"


Employees must:

  • Take reasonable care of themselves and others, and co-operate with their employer
  • Not recklessly interfere with or misuse anything that is used for health and safety provision
  • Report any serious or imminent danger and any shortcomings in the employer’s protective health and safety arrangements
  • Enforcement of health and safety law

Enforcement will be carried out either by the HSE or the relevant local authority depending upon the nature of the workplace. The HSE inspectors are generally responsible for schools, factories, hospitals etc., while authorized officers from local authority are responsible for shops, offices and warehouses, etc.


Inspectors can:

  • Gain access to any workplace at any reasonable time
  • Direct that locations remain undisturbed after an accident
  • Ask questions and give advice
  • Take measurements, photographs and samples
  • Order the removal and testing of equipment

Safety signs must be used whenever a hazard or danger cannot be avoided adequately or reduced in another way. Download our guide to learn more.

Download: Know your safety signs


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Author Tanya

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