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What is Health & Safety law and how is it enforced?

What is Health & Safety law and how is it enforced?

Law is defined as a body of rules designed to regulate the behaviour of society. 

In its simplest form, Health & Safety law is comprised of rules that all people must adhere to so that risks to the health & safety of employees and the wider population are minimised.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational Health & Safety in Great Britain. It is made up of a number of sections that establish the health & safety duties of employers, employees, self-employed, the public, and many others.

These duties fall under three categories:

  1. Absolute duty - must be complied with.
  2. Practicable duty - must be complied with, if possible.
  3. Reasonably practicable duty - must take proportionate measures to work towards compliance.

Law is divided into two different branches: civil law & criminal law.

Civil law allows for an injured person, or their dependents, to sue for damages.

Civil law is interpreted by civil courts. Guilt is proven on the balance of probabilities. It can be insured against with Employers’ liability insurance.

Criminal law allows for an enforcing authority to prosecute if minimal legal standards are not met.

A democratic society, like the UK, requires independence of the following:

  1. Lawmakers
  2. Law enforcers
  3. Law interpreters

In the case of the UK, that is:

  1. Parliament
  2. The police & the HSE
  3. Courts

The enforcement of Health & Safety law depends upon the main activity undertaken at the workplace.

High-risk workplaces, like construction sites or factories, will be enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA).

Lower-risk workplaces, like offices and shops, will be enforced by local authorities, usually Environmental Health Officers (EHOs).

All authorised Health & Safety inspectors have the power to enforce statutory provisions within their field of responsibility. Specifically, they can:

  • Enter any relevant premises without permission or prior notice, at any reasonable time.
  • Take a police constable with them.
  • Interview and take written statements from any relevant person.
  • Confiscate any article or substance that presents an immediate danger and have it destroyed.
  • Order that areas be left undisturbed, take measurements, samples, photographs, and inspect/take copies of relevant documents.

Additionally, inspectors have a range of enforcement options available to them. They can:

  • Deal with a situation informally by providing verbal advice.
  • Serve an improvement notice, specifying the breach of legislation, and giving a timescale for complying.
  • Issue a prohibition notice if there is a risk of serious personal injury. 
  • Prosecution in criminal courts.

Essential Health & Safety Training

Our Essential Health and Safety Training course is the perfect solution for organisations that want to touch base on a range of Health & Safety topics.

The course touches upon the key areas of Health and Safety that you are legally required to train your staff in, including DSE, Manual Handling, Fire Awareness, and more.

Additionally, we offer a number of more extensive courses on these individual topics. The courses are designed to help staff to understand how to carry out their everyday tasks confidently and safely,

Interested in trying this course or any of our other Health & Safety courses? Claim your no-obligation free trial today!

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