This week the Health and Safety Executive has led the celebrations for the 40th year since the Health and Safety at Work Act received Royal Assent. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is one of the most important pieces of legislation in Health and Safety law and is one of the reasons the UK is considered one of the safest places to work in the world. The HSWA is also important in personal injury claims as it can often be drawn upon to prove the negligence of an employer in many cases.
What does HSWA do?
The HSWA was set out to give employees and workers a legal right to be protected from work related risks. It is quite wide ranging and generally imposed a set of duties on employers, self-employed individuals and employees. The Act includes many broad general duties as well as more specific subsidiary regulations which relate to niche areas and specific health and safety concerns. Much of the HSWA is closely connected with a range of EU Directives.
The HSWA does have an across the board approach but within the Act there are more specific regulations covering particular sections of industry including construction, railways, mines and quarries and nuclear installations.
The HSWA also saw the formation of both the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Commission, although both bodies are now merged under the HSE. The Act gave the HSE and local authorities expansive powers to ensure the regulations were being upheld with the right to prosecute, issue notices to stop dangerous work or to demand improvements.
Has the HSWA helped?
Although exact statistics can’t be known, collation of records suggests that the total number of work related injuries has fallen by as much as 75% since the introduction of the HSWA. The number of people who are fatally injured at work has also fallen significantly. Elements of this change are down to the nature of work, with many more people sat at computers than working in factories or mines, but also the HSWA has made a hugely significant contribution to risk management and employers taking responsibility for health and safety in the workplace.
Accidents at Work
Accidents at work maybe falling and we hope this figure continues to fall but they are still taking place every year. The HSWA and other legislation protects employees’ rights and can be used in conjunction with evidence to prove the negligence of an employer.
Personal injury in the workplace can be something as clear cut as a fall from fault equipment but can also be stress or repetitive strain injuries caused by inappropriate office equipment. Discussing your situation with a professional personal injury solicitor will give you a clearer idea of where you stand.
Happy 40th Birthday HSWA!