HSWA Key Takeaways


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: Key Takeaways

There are several pieces of health and safety legislation that are designed to protect people from being harmed by preventable hazards. The main piece of health and safety legislation in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work Act, which places a number of responsibilities on employers, employees and the self-employed.

In this article, we will answer several questions about this act, and explore some of its key takeaways.

What is the Health and Safety at Work Act?

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation in Great Britain that covers occupational health and safety. The main thing that it does is outlines the general duties and responsibilities that employers, employees and the self-employed have to themselves and those around them.

There are several additional health and safety regulations that were introduced after this act, including:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.

When was the Health and Safety at Work Act introduced?

The act was introduced initially in 1974, and has been updated several times in the years since. It can be viewed in full on the government's website here.

What does the Health and Safety at Work Act cover?

The main thing that the Health and Safety at Work act does is requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees while they are at work. They must take several measures to ensure this, such as:

  • Providing and properly maintaining a work environment and equipment that is safe.
  • Providing any necessary information, instruction, training and supervision required.
  • Providing the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to help manage any residual risk.

Risk assessments are a valuable tool that can be used to determine these measures and mitigate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act, but they are not a requirement of this act. To find out more about risk assessments, consider taking our Risk Assessment Training course.

They must also carry out their work in a way that does not affect the health and safety of anyone they do not employ, such as members of the public.

Alongside this, the act requires employees to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and that of those around them, and to work with their employer to ensure that they are complying with the health and safety measures in place.

Who does the Health and Safety at Work Act protect?

The Health and Safety at Work Act is designed to protect employees, the self-employed and members of the public from experiencing harm as a result of their employer or those around them.

How is the Health and Safety at Work Act enforced?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities are responsible for enforcing a number of pieces of legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This means that they will investigate potential breaches of health and safety legislation and taking any necessary enforcement action, including:

  • Providing information, instruction and advice on how to resolve minor breaches of law.
  • Requiring improvements to be made to a risk assessment and management plan.
  • Stopping dangerous activities from taking place.
  • Prosecuting those responsible for serious breaches of law.

Why is the Health and Safety at Work Act needed?

Health and safety legislation, and the work of the Health and Safety Executive, has been vital in protecting people while at work, and has helped to reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and fatalities that happen in the workplace.

Despite this, statistics from 2020/21 show that there are still over 1.7 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in the UK, and over 140 deaths at work each year.

Reducing these numbers should be a priority for all employers, and it is for this reason that the Health and Safety at Work Act is as necessary now as it was when it was introduced.


At Commodious, we offer a range of training courses designed to improve your health and safety knowledge, including our Workplace Health and Safety courses. Use the links below to find out more about them: