What is the Health and Safety at Work Act?

Health & Safety training

Legislation to benefit the working conditions of employees has been in place for several decades as a way of providing stability to workers of every registered employer across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Although the government has looked to make life easier for the UK’s many part-time and full-time workers, employer duties surrounding the topic of health and safety can be ignored by less compassionate companies. This is why the Health and Safety at Work Act has been in place since 1974, assuring that everyone within their current job is safeguarded by the employer, who ultimately holds accountability over workplace incidents, accidents and ongoing dangers.

Not only are full-time employees included in the Health and Safety at Work Act, but it also covers anyone else on company premises including temporary workers, cleaning staff, part-time employees, interns, company clients, visitors and relevant members of the general public. Despite the legislation being passed over forty years ago, the government has been known to adapt the act to match current regulations, all with the sole intention of putting codes of practice in place to protect all employees.

Health and safety in the workplace is a crucial factor that employers must take into consideration at all times. To prevent any companies from failing to comply with these regulations, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a moderator that enforces the expected standards throughout the United Kingdom. Dating back as far as the 1800s, the HSE helps both workers and employers with the correct guidance and support to prevent work-related ill health, injury and death.

How to promote health and safety at work

Regardless of whether you’re softly introducing safe working practices or choosing to fully embrace the government’s rules and regulations in one gigantic transition, it’s possible to get everyone on board with this type of structure. It also doesn’t need to be done in a way that overcomplicates the Health and Safety Act for those who were previously unfamiliar with it.

Health and safety procedures in the workplace

Some of the most common Health & Safety policies implemented by employers.

Provide health and safety training

The most basic way to make employees more knowledgeable about workplace health and safety is to offer the option of in-house trainingin-house. After providing extensive training, you will be able to equip all of your staff with a health and safety handbook to ensure that key information is easy to source.

Monitor the standard of your working environment

Ensuring that desks are clean, floors are clear of potential slippages and that fire exits aren’t blocked is a starting point, but you also need to check that the building itself is in a good state, that any volatile materials are handled and kept in an appropriate way, and that working conditions are suitable for everyone.

Assess and expel current hazards

After assessing your working environment for hazards, you should take steps to remove them. Accidents can occur easily and at any time, so it’s worth introducing a ‘see something, say something’ philosophy into your workplace to avoid preventable incidents.

Someone filling in a form

How health and safety affects employees

Without any regard for the impact of health and safety, a company isn’t fully understanding the needs of their workforce. Health and safety not only refers to accidents that could happen within working hours, but also outside influences, such as pregnancy and serious illness. Every employee holds their own rights and responsibilities, but ignoring these standards is also a negative for the company they work for, as it could be detrimental to company efficiency.

Employee rights include such things as having all workplace health and safety issues controlled effectively by their employer, being given regularly serviced equipment, the option to stop working if it’s under unsafe terms, and to be treated the same even after complaining to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about working conditions. More basic employee rights cover appropriate working hours, paid annual leave and other incentives which typically come hand in hand with full-time employment.

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In turn, employees at any level must meet their own responsibilities, such as to ensure their own health and safety, dress appropriately for the job in question, avoid causing harm to other members of staff, speak up on injuries sustained during working hours, and to update their employer if their mental state or physical state changes in a way that could affect their job.

As an employer, it’s important to take health and safety issues seriously, as refusing to do this could also have a negative impact on productivity. In severe cases, it could lead to prolonged or recurrent absence of staff, an expensive bill to repair materials or property after a major incident such as a fire or electrical fault, or a lawsuit if the necessary guidelines weren’t in place prior to an incident.

In circumstances where working conditions become unmanageable, the refusal to acknowledge employee concerns can lead to a loss of staff. Not only would this be an unacceptable way of running a company for the present, but it would also be an unsustainable way of functioning in the future, more than likely leading to further departures.

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