What are the main health and safety regulations?

1. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Also known as the 'Management Regs', these came into effect in 1993. Main employer duties under the Regulations include:

  • making 'assessments of risk' to the health and safety of its workforce, and to act upon risks they identify, so as to reduce them (Regulation 3);
  • appointing competent persons to oversee workplace health and safety;
  • providing workers with information and training on occupational health and safety; and
  • operating a written health and safety policy.

2. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The main provisions of these Regulations require employers to provide:

  • adequate lighting, heating, ventilation and workspace (and keep them in a clean condition);
  • staff facilities, including toilets, washing facilities and refreshment; and
  • safe passageways, i.e. to prevent slipping and tripping hazards.

3. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

The main provisions here apply to display screen equipment (DSE) 'users', defined as workers who 'habitually' use a computer as a significant part of their normal work. This includes people who are regular users of DSE equipment, or rely on it as part of their job. This covers you if you use DSE for an hour or more continuously, and/or you are making daily use of DSE.

Employers are required to:

  • make a risk assessment of workstation use by DSE users, and reduce the risks identified;
  • ensure DSE users take 'adequate breaks';
  • provide regular eyesight tests;
  • provide health and safety information;
  • provide adjustable furniture (e.g. desk, chair, etc.); and
  • demonstrate that they have adequate procedures designed to reduce risks associated with DSE work, such as repetitive strain injury (RSI).

4. The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

The main provisions require employers to:

  • ensure that suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided free of charge "wherever there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways." The PPE must be 'suitable' for the risk in question, and include protective face masks and goggles, safety helmets, gloves, air filters, ear defenders, overalls and protective footwear; and
  • provide information, training and instruction on the use of this equipment.

5. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The main provisions of these Regulations require employers to:

  • avoid (so far as is reasonably practicable) the need for employees to undertake any manual handling activities involving risk of injury;
  • make assessments of manual handling risks, and try to reduce the risk of injury. The assessment should consider the task, the load and the individual's personal characteristics (physical strength, etc.); and
  • provide workers with information on the weight of each load.

6. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

The main provisions require employers to:

  • ensure the safety and suitability of work equipment for the purpose for which it is provided;
  • properly maintain the equipment, irrespective of how old it is;
  • provide information, instruction and training on the use of equipment; and
  • protect employees from dangerous parts of machinery.

7. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995

Under these Regulations, employers are required to report a wide range of work-related incidents, injuries and diseases to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), or to the nearest local authority environmental health department. The Regulations require an employer to record in an accident book the date and time of the incident, details of the person(s) affected, the nature of their injury or condition, their occupation, the place where the event occurred and a brief note on what happened.

The following injuries or ill health must be reported:

  • the death of any person;
  • specified injuries including fractures, amputations, eye injuries, injuries from electric shock, and acute illness requiring removal to hospital or immediate medical attention;
  • 'over-seven-day' injuries, which involve relieving someone of their normal work for more than seven days as a result of injury caused by an accident at work;
  • reportable occupational diseases, including:
    • cramp of the hand or forearm due to repetitive movement;
    • carpal tunnel syndrome, involving hand-held vibrating tools;
    • occupational asthma;
    • tendonitis or tenosynovitis (types of tendon injury);
    • hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), including where the person’s work involves regular use of percussive or vibrating tools; and
    • occupational dermatitis;
  • near misses (described in the Regulations as 'dangerous occurrences'). The HSE has produced a list of the kinds of incidents regarded as 'dangerous occurrences'.

8. The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended)

These Regulations implement two European Union directives on the organisation of working time and the employment of young workers (under 18 years of age). The Regulations cover the right to annual leave and to have rest breaks, and they limit the length of the working week. Key protections for adult workers include:

  • a 48-hour maximum working week. Employers have a contractual obligation not to require a worker to work more than an average 48-hour week (unless the worker has opted out of this voluntarily and in writing);
  • minimum daily rest periods of 11 hours, unless shift-working arrangements have been made that comply with the Regulations; and
  • an uninterrupted 20-minute daily rest break after six hours' work, to be taken during, rather than at the start or end of the working time.

Extra protection is available to young workers (workers aged 15 to 18). In particular, young workers:

  • are entitled to a daily uninterrupted rest break of 30 minutes after working more than 4.5 hours;
  • are entitled to an uninterrupted 12-hour break in each 24 hour period of work.
  • are entitled to weekly rest of at least 48 hours in each seven-day period (and unlike adult workers, they cannot be made to take this rest over two days averaged over two weeks); and
  • cannot normally work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. These hours cannot be averaged out. There is no 'opt-out' for young workers.

All full-time workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday each year, reduced pro-rata for part-time workers.

These basic limits on the working week make a vital contribution to health and safety at work.

  • Employers have the right to ask their staff to enter into a written agreement to opt out of the 48-hour limit, for a specific period or indefinitely.
  • However, if such an agreement is opted into, a worker is entitled to bring the agreement to an end without the employer's consent.

The TUC's It’s About Time campaign against long hours includes a model 'opt in' letter for you to send to your employer, opting back into the 48-hour working week.

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.