The Health and Safety Regulations You Must Comply With

health and safety regulations

Despite misgivings, health and safety regulations help employers as much as employees. Yes, protecting workers is usually the priority. But complying with the relevant regulations keeps work running smoothly, promotes productivity and keeps costs down in the long run. And compliance is often more straightforward than you might think.

Our guide runs down the key health and safety regulations that affect all workplaces and what you need to do to comply.

What Happens if You Don’t Comply

Health and safety regulations are not technically law because they are not created by an Act of Parliament. Instead, regulations are set by a separate governing body to establish what must be done to comply with an associated Act.

Despite this separation, there are still consequences for breaching health and safety regulations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the national regulator for workplace health and safety, and it can penalise employers who fail to uphold regulations. The HSE can:

  • Serve prohibition notices
  • Withdraw approvals for work
  • Issue simple cautions
  • Seek prosecution

If the HSE does take you to court, there’s a good chance they’ll win. The regulator has a better conviction rate than criminal courts, winning around 94% of its cases. Losing employers are usually issued with fines, although imprisonment is possible.

With this said, the HSE exists to protect workers first. Its inspectors will prioritise working with you to improve workplace health and safety over punishing you, provided breaches are relatively minor and you’ve previously shown real concern for your workers’ safety.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Before looking at regulations, it’s essential to be aware of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA). The HSWA is legislation that sets the framework for good workplace health and safety in the UK.

Under the HSWA, you must protect the health and safety of your workers and anyone else affected by your business activities. How you actually do this is set out by the health and safety regulations and supplementary legislation established in the past five decades since the HSWA was passed.

Health and Safety Courses

Our Health and Safety Courses explore common workplace hazards that may cause harm if ignored. Understanding hazards is critical to controlling workplace risks and protecting employees.

Main Health and Safety Regulations

The HSWA sets out your ultimate health and safety duty (to protect staff, visitors and members of the public). The following regulations specify the systems, procedures and measures you must use to uphold your overarching duty of care. They’re relevant to every industry and apply to essentially every workplace in the UK.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 make it a legal duty to carry out risk assessments.

A risk assessment is a careful examination of the hazards that might cause harm in your workplace and an evaluation of the risk these hazards pose (risk is a measurement of chance of that harm happening and how severe it will be).

With this information, you’re then required to implement control measures to eliminate or reduce risk to a reasonably practicable level—meaning the effort and cost of implementing the control measure match the protection it offers.

Risk assessments can only be conducted by individuals with the right combination of knowledge, experience and training to be deemed competent. This requirement comes up frequently in health and safety regulations and essentially means the person doing the job has the qualities to do it safely and in line with best practice.

management of health safety work regulations 1999

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) set out your duties to ensure that the equipment used by your employees is safe. It covers all forms of work equipment, from hand tools to heavy plant and machinery.

PUWER’s scope can be intimidating, which is why we’ve written extensively about it before. But at the most general level, PUWER makes it necessary to:

  • Supply only suitable work equipment
  • Risk assess work equipment
  • Inspect equipment regularly to detect faults that may threaten users’ safety
  • Maintain equipment in good working order
  • Provide adequate information, instruction and training to equipment users and their supervisors
provision and use of work equipment regulations 1998

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 establish what you must do to make your work environment safe and comfortable for your workers.

Under these regulations, you must provide:

  • Adequate lighting, ventilation and heating
  • Suitable workstations
  • Suitable bathrooms
  • Drinking water and suitable cups
  • Spaces to rest and eat during breaks

In addition to these provisions, you have a general duty to maintain the cleanliness and safety of your workplace and arrange repairs when necessary.

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995

The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) makes reporting and documenting certain types of workplace incidents necessary.

Under RIDDOR, the HSE must be informed of:

  • Work-related accidents that cause death
  • Work-related accidents that cause a ‘specified injury’ (typically a severe one)
  • Diagnosis of certain industrial diseases
  • Certain ‘dangerous occurrences’ (close calls with the potential to cause serious harm)

These reports are not necessarily evidence against you. The HSE uses them to identify accident trends and plan how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

For a complete list of ‘specified injuries’ that must be reported, see the HSE’s guidance.

Other Relevant Health and Safety Regulations

The health and safety regulations covered here aren’t less important but generally have a narrower scope. They’re still applicable to all workplaces.

The Working Time Regulations 1998

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) implement two EU directives created to protect workers under the age of 18 and limit the hours an adult can work.

Under these regulations, you must:

  • Limit the working week to 48 hours (employees can work beyond this if they volunteer to)
  • Ensure a minimum 11-hour turnaround between shifts
  • Allow a minimum 20-minute break per 6 hours of work to be taken during the working period, not at the start or end

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 aren’t relevant in every workplace. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is only needed if it can further reduce risks to your workers’ health and safety, which isn’t always the case.

But if your risk assessment indicates that PPE is necessary, you must follow these regulations. The essential requirements are to:

  • Supply suitable PPE free of charge
  • Maintain PPE in safe working order
  • Provide sufficient instruction and training on the correct use of supplied PPE
  • Ensure PPE is used correctly

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 outline how to safely use display screen equipment (DSE). DSE includes computers, laptops and smart devices with a screen, so these regulations apply to essentially every workplace. They make it a requirement to:

  • Carry out a DSE workstation assessment to identify risks to the DSE user
  • Implement control measures to eliminate or reduce risks to a safe level
  • Provide training and information to your workers who use DSE

You must do all of the above for employees who work in the office full-time and those who work remotely, from home or at different desks regularly.

health and safety (display screen equipment) regulations 1992

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 set out how to minimise injury risks when moving loads (objects, animals or humans) by bodily force.

These regulations establish a clear ranking of measures you should use:

  1. Avoid manual handling tasks whenever possible
  2. Risk assess manual handling tasks that can’t be avoided
  3. Reduce risks as much as reasonably practical

You can reduce risks in several different ways. For example, you can provide mechanical aids or vary work patterns so workers don’t constantly strain the same muscle groups.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 establish what you must do to prevent harm caused by working with or around electrical systems and devices.

For low-risk workplaces, the most important thing to do is to provide suitable equipment that’s checked regularly and maintained in safe working order. Some employers assume this means all electrical equipment must undergo portable appliance testing (PAT).

PAT isn’t technically a legal requirement. But it is probably the most straightforward and effective way of checking any electrical device is safe to use.

Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981

Health and safety regulations reduce the likelihood of accidents happening, but not to zero. There’s always the possibility someone on site will get hurt or suddenly be taken ill due to reasons unrelated to their work. That’s why the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 exist.

These regulations set the minimum every workplace must have in case an employee needs immediate aid, which are:

  • A well-stocked and signposted first aid kit
  • Someone to manage that first aid kit and contact the emergency services

Remember, this is the minimum provision. You’ll need to conduct a first aid needs assessment to determine what other arrangements you’ll need depending on the size and layout of your premises and the work that happens there.

You’ll likely need at least one qualified first aider, although it’s advisable to give all employees basic first aid training.

Key Takeaways

  • Health and safety regulations set out what you need to do to prevent harm and comply with legislation.
  • The Health and Safety Executive enforces these regulations and can take action against you if you fail to comply.
  • There’s a long list of regulations you must comply with, but the HSE exists in part to offer guidance and support. You can also find online training courses that explain your duties and help demonstrate your commitment to workplace health and safety.

Health and Safety Training

You probably noticed that ‘training’ is a regular feature in most regulations. Workers need to understand the hazards they face, the control measures you’ve put in place and what they can do to protect themselves and others. After all, safe systems of work are only effective if they’re followed.

We offer online Health and Safety Training for offices, construction sites and industrial workplaces. And with over 200 courses available in our library, you’ll be able to find one related to practically every set of health and safety regulations in the UK. You can get the training you need to comply and make your workplace safer, healthier and more productive.

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Jonathan Goby
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