By Louise Early, Strategic Industry Manager
Protecting millions of British workers and reducing incidents of occupational death, serious injury and ill health, The Health & Safety at Work Act is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health & safety in Britain.
The Health & Safety Executive, in conjunction with local authorities, is responsible for enforcing the Act and a number of other Acts and Statutory Instruments relevant to the working environment.
The 1972 Robens Report concluded there were too many regulations and what was needed was a regulatory regime that set broad, non-prescriptive goals for dutyholders. The Act that was created from the report removed detailed and prescriptive industry regulations, and created a flexible system where regulations describe goals and principles, supported by codes of practice and guidance. The new system was designed to deliver a proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach.
The Health & Safety at Work Act makes it possible for most people to work in a safe environment day after day, and HSE publishes Guidance Note EH40, detailing the workplace exposure limits for toxic gases, to help employers to control their processes adequately.
In the 40 years since the Act was passed, the number of fatalities has dropped by 85%, while the number of injuries at work has also fallen by 77%. Today, it is difficult to imagine a work environment that is not protected by strong regulations and guidelines.