Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Law




The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) is the UK Act, which regulates the structure for the enforcement of workplace safety within UK. This Act describes duties on employers, workers, and suppliers to be applied at work and on personnel involved in controlling work premises. The Act provides a system of supervision, supported by Health and Safety Commission. This Act was passed after Roben’s Report in 1972, which recognised that workers had no safety and protection at work. The Act was passed in 1974 and defined the duties of workers, employers, and contractors ( Stranks, 2005,  pp. 3-6)

 This paper discuses the development of the law and analyses the circumstances under which the section becomes operative and its use for imposing liabilities.




Development of the Law


Barbara Castle produced a Health and Safety Bill in 1970; the Bill did not address the basic issues of work safety. The committee of Lord Robens provided Robens Report in 1972; after that, the Labour administration passed a new Bill in 1974, called as HASAWA. The UK law enforcement agencies recognised that there was a need for self-regulating system for safety at work. The traditional approach was outdated and complex. Reforms should be made for effective self-regulation by workpeople (Moore, 2006,  pp. 450).


 There was a need to encourage the efforts of industry to tackle their safety issues, which should be supported by a framework of legislation. Effective codes of practice should be implemented to promote better conditions. This framework would enable the safety services to be used in a better way in assisting workpeople. For these arrangements, a centre was required such as Authority for Safety and Health at Work (Hardy & Upex, 2006, pp. 118).

The rates of death and injury from accidents at work were high. New problems were emerging. The previous laws were unable to regulate the overall system for safety at work, were ineffective in accident prevention, and did not deal effectively with serious hazards. There was a need to present a safety and health legislation to deal with workpeople in factories, agriculture, mines, and nuclear installations and should be administered by a law authority (Joyston-Bechal & Dering, 2004,  pp. 2-5)


The new Act contained basic principles for workplace safety, which was supported by regulations and emphasised on codes of practice. The codes of practice and voluntary standards provided the most practical means of promoting conditions of safety and health at work ( The employers were required to set the written statements of their safety policies, which were provided to all employees. These policies and responsibilities were  defined at all level of workplace management. The scope of the Act was extended to all employers and workers (Joyston-Bechal & Dering, 2004, pp. 2-5).


 The Circumstances under Which the Section Becomes Operative

General Duties of Employers to Employees


According to HASAWA, it is the duty of employer to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of all his employees at workplace (Moore, 2006, pp. 450). It is the duty of employer to maintain system of work, which should be safe, practicable and without risks to worker’s health. It is the duty of employer to make arrangements to safety in connection with storage and transportation of goods and substances and to provide information and training to ensure the health and safety at work. It is the duty of employer to provide maintenance of place of work, which is under the control of employer, to make it safe and should provide facilities for their welfare (Rush  & Ottley, 2006, pp. 309).


Duties of Employers to Persons Other Than Employees

It is the duty of employer to ensure that persons other than employees should not be exposed to health risks. The self-employed person should make arrangements to prevent health risk to others (Humphreys, 2007, 19-3).


Duties of Persons Concerned With Work Premises

 It is the duty of person, who has control of premises to take measures, to ensure that all   plants or substances in the premises should be safe and devoid of health risks (Rush  & Ottley, 2006, pp. 309).


Duties of Persons Concerned With Work Premises and its Harmful Emissions

It is the duty of person, who has control of premises to use the best practicable means for preventing the harmful emission from the premises. It is also the duty of that person to supervise the operations involving in the emission of the harmful substances ((Marchington & Wilkinson, 2002, pp.75)


Duties of Manufacturers


It is the duty of manufacturers to ensure that the article constructed will be safe, when it is being used by a person at work. The manufacturers must carry out testing and examination before supplying articles in the industry. The manufacturers must take steps to provide information about the use of the article and about any conditions required to  ensure the safety of the article (IChemE, 2008, pp. 778).


            The manufacturers must provide all necessary information regarding the risk to safety of the workers at work and should take steps to dispose the material if it causes serious risk to health. It is the duty of person who installs any article at work, to ensure that the article is safe at any time (Lewis  & Sargeant, 2004, pp. 109)


Duties of employees

It is the duty of employees, to take care for the safety of himself or herself and of other work-related persons and to co-operate with employer to make the workplace safe and without risk (Rush  & Ottley, 2006, pp. 309)


Other Related Legislations Lacked Individual Liabilities


The Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 and Factories Act 1961 were there in Europe before HASAWA. These regulations imposed liabilities such as imprisonment or unlimited fines. HASAWA 1974 was based on the principle of ‘reasonable practicability’ (Moonie, 2005, pp. 75). In other regulations, the liability imposed was strict one and an employer was liable to pay fines for an injured worker despite he had taken all steps to protect the workers. This act imposed vicarious liability on employers for actions of workers during their employment (Sagar & Mead , 2008, pp. 64)


Under the Act, the person can be prosecuted if a workplace offence is committed, by any director or secretary of the organisation. The breaches of the Act are liable for imprisonment and fines. The employer’s liability can be civil or criminal; the employers may be sued in the Crown or Magistrates Court for damages, negligence, or breaches of Act causing injuries to employees or contractors. The Employment Tribunals hear appeals of inspectors’ notices, decide, and take actions for employees to provide them work safety. For breaching these laws, the offender has to face penalties, which include  fines or imprisonment. These fines are between £5,000 to £20,000, if prosecuted in the Magistrates Court. The offender is liable to imprisonment or fine in the Crown Court (Ndekugri & Rycroft, 2012, pp. 275)


In 2003, the Crown Court imposed fine of £17,632 per offence, while the Magistrates Court imposed fine of £3,760. Under this Act, the offender may face individual liability or the whole company can be sued. The individual liability may involve senior managers or directors (Marchington & Wilkinson, 2005, pp. 68)


            These individuals can be fined or imprisoned. The size of fines are kept large enough to convey the message to employers that the Health And Safety Act provides safe environment for employees at their workplace, however, these fines are not very high to put the business at risk. In determining the size of fine, the court considers the level of risk involved at the workplace and to what extent the offender had fallen short of required standard of care. The factors that reduce the size of fine are good safety records and early remedial actions. The factors that increase the size of fine are breaching legislation for saving money or loss of life (Sagar & Mead , 2008, pp. 64).


Secondary Liabilities in HASAWA


Under section 3 of HASAWA, an employer has a duty to protect the workers of contractors in his premises, with respect to risks caused by the contractor. In turn, the contractor has a duty to protect his own workers and of the employer. The employer has to face the secondary liability, with regard to damages caused by contractor in his premises. The contractor must be competent and carefully selected by the employer before allowing him to work in his premises (Craig, & Campbell, 2012, pp. 312).



Case Studies

  • In September 2012, a female police officer, Paul Jackson suffered an elbow injury, when she tried to remove Cannabis from growbags in a Cannabis factory. She claimed £100,000, which was settled by the court (


  • In June 2008, in Leicester, a company was fined £5,300, after one of its employee got serious burns when he was removing a mould plug at Harrison Castings. The worker required plastic surgery and five days stay in a hospital. According to site inspectors, the injury could have been prevented, if the company provided the proper gloves for heat resistance. The worker was wearing the gloves, which offered minimum heat resistance. The molten metal permeated the gloves and the hot liquid entered his sleeves, making burns worse. The company owners were fined £5,300 under regulations of HASAWA, which requires that an assessment of the workplace should be done to ensure that it is safe for the health and safety of the workers (


  • In September 2012, Brendan Lowe, was locking up the gate of the work premises, slipped on ice and fractured his collarbone. The liability was admitted and he received £5,250 (


  • In June 2011, worker got a burns, when she was asked by employers to fill a hot water bucket.  The bucket  slipped as it did not have a handle on it.   She claimed compensation of £4,250 (


  • In  May 2012, a Nurse was handling an aggressive patient, while she was restraining the patient, she got injuries. She received compensation of GBP450,000 (




Liabilities for Senior Officers and Recommendations for Work and Pensions Select Committee


Under the Act of HASAWA 1974, the senior officers of the company are responsible for providing the information regarding the health and safety of the workers (Victoria, 2009, pp. 306-317). The Work and Pensions Select Committee should look at issues regarding the health and safety of workers at workplace and regarding pension schemes and should assess risk to older workers in company; it should provide information regarding all these factors. 


  • Academic Opinion
  • The Act HASAWA 1974 was successful in providing safety to workers and employers. It provides safety by imposing liabilities to employers, if they found guilty of any workplace crime. Therefore, the Act should be applied to all workplace premises in UK.


  • Conclusion



The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 describes duties on employers, workers and suppliers to be applied at work and the personnel involved  in controlling work premises. The Act contained basic principles for safety, which was supported by regulations and emphasised on codes of practice. The breaches of the Act are liable for imprisonment and fines. The offender may face individual liability or the whole company can be sued. The Act provides safety for workers as well as contractors.  



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