The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 governs all aspects of health and safety within the UK. Beneath the main Act itself lie a number of other regulations - these are made by either the European Union or the UK to implement the new laws that the EU want Member states to adapt. Breaking of any of the rules of the Act or Regulations is an Offence and may be Punishable in law but below this there is yet another tier of rules and guidance called Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs). These are again legal documents and although not as tight as the Act or Regulations, are enforceable in that if the employer does not perform to the standard of the ACOP then they MUST have a system in place which covers the safety of staff to the same level as the ACOP.
This is not the end of the regulations - there is one more level which are guidance documents - and are there to explain the legislation in practical terms so that employers can implement their own systems of work to ensure worker safety.
However Health and Safety enforcement is split between two authorities , the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Local Authority (LA) and the split is dependant on the main activity of the premises.
Health And Safety Executive will enforce the following:
- The operation of a railway
- Mine or Quarry
- Any activity in premsies occupied by a radio, television or film undertaking
- Construction, including gas fitting, electrical installations and radiation
- Medical radiation work
- Any activity on board a sea going ship
- Any activity in relation to a ski slope, ski lift, ski tow or cable car.
- Fish, maggot and game breeding except in a zoo
- Any activity in relation to a pipeline within the meaning of regulation 3 of the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996
The Local Authority enforces activities in the following sector:
- The sale of goods, or the storage of goods for retail or wholesale distribution
- The display or demonstration of goods at an exhibition for the purposes of offer or advertisement for sale
- Office activities
- Catering services
- The provision of permanent or temporary residential accommodation including the provision of a site for caravans or campers
- Consumer services provided in a shop except dry cleaning or radio and television repairs
- Cleaning (wet or dry) in coin operated units in launderettes and similar premises
- The practice or presentation of the arts, sports, games, entertainment or other cultural or recreational activities except where the main activity is the exhibition of a cave to the public
- The hiring out of pleasure craft for use on inland waters
- The care, treatment, accommodation or exhibition of animals, birds or other creatures, except where the main activity is horse breeding or horse training at a stable, or is an agricultural activity or veterinary surgery
- The activities of an undertaker, except where the main activity is embalming or the making of coffins
- Church worship or religious meetings
- The provision of car parking facilities within the perimeter of an airport
- The provision of child care, or playgroup or nursery facilities
Depending upon the area in which your employer operates (see above) then the enforcing authority will inspect your premises and systems to ensure compliance with current legislation. Inspections may be ad hoc and unannounced, as a result of an accident, or as part of an Inspection programme. Usually the inspection and premises has been risk assessed by the inspector previously and this determines when the inspection of the premise is next due (This can be anywhere between one and five years).
The Inspector will meet the Safety Officer or the Employer of the company to discuss Health and Safety issues, as well as seeing previous accident histories and patterns. They will then inspect the premises examining plant and equipment to ensure that it is fit for purpose and checking documentation relating to its current maintenance schedule. If there are unions present within the workplace then they will be met and union safety officers interviewed separately from the management to discuss any worker concerns or issues regarding the safety and health of employees. Once the physical inspection is complete then the documentation will be examined to ensure a safe system of work is in place for the staff.
A more focused inspection may also take place , which can be in one of several key areas - for example slips, trips and falls, muscular-skeletal disorders, dermatitis, violence, workplace transport - so inspections may be detailed in just those areas.
Again the premises is risk assessed and depending on how good the systems and premises is will determine when the next visit will take place.