Health and Safety

Health and safety law places a responsibility on employers to ensure 'so far as is reasonably practicable', the health, safety and welfare of workers. If your employer fails to comply with health and safety law they could be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authority enforcement officers.

The basis of UK health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA). This sets out the general principles of health and safety compliance. It is supplemented by more detailed regulations, some applying to all industries and some applying only to specific industries, types of premises or specific health and safety issues.

Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) are published from time to time containing guidance, examples of good practice and explanations of the law.

As well as rights, the law creates responsibilities and duties for workers too, so interfering with anything provided in the interests of health and safety could also lead to prosecution.

The HSE is responsible for health and safety policy and enforcement of health and safety law. In recent years, the European Union has been influential in adopting health and safety measures which are implemented by member states including, of course, the UK. There is concern that workers’ rights underpinned by EU rules are now at risk since Britain voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum. The TUC has released a report outlining workers’ rights at risk from a 'Brexit': UK Employment Rights and the EU (PDF, 461KB).

The following list gives examples of areas of work and matters which come within the scope of health and safety law:

  • ventilation;
  • temperature;
  • lighting;
  • cleanliness and waste materials;
  • floor space;
  • seating;
  • sanitation;
  • washing facilities;
  • smoking;
  • visual display units (VDUs);
  • noise;
  • vibration;
  • work in confined spaces;
  • diving;
  • radiation; and
  • hazardous substances.
Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.