Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Coming into effect in 1974, the act revolutionised the way Britain treats health and safety, by providing a legal framework to promote, stimulate and encourage high standards of health and safety in places of work.

Before 1974 there were 8 million employees in the UK working without any legal safety protection. Since its implementation, thousands of lives have been saved and countless injuries have been prevented, indeed deaths have dropped a staggering 85%, and injuries 77%.

Speaking of the success of the Health and Safety Act, Minister of State for Health and Safety Mark Harper said: ‘Britain has come an incredibly long way over the past 40 years in protecting its workforce. Our workplace safety record is now the envy of the world, with businesses and governments queuing up to tap into our expertise.

‘Any death at work is a death too many. But few can dispute that the reduction in fatalities and injuries over the past 40 years is a significant step forward. Britain is now officially one of the safest places in Europe – and the world – to work.

The Law

Although the brunt of the responsibility is down to the employer, it is everyone’s duty to enforce the act in every day practise. For employers to comply with the act, they must:

  • Provide and maintain safety equipment and safe systems of work
  • Ensure materials used are properly stored, handled, used and transported
  • Provide information, training, instruction and supervision – ensure staff are aware of instructions provided by manufacturers and suppliers of equipment
  • Provide a safe place of employment
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Provide a written safety policy/risk assessment
  • Look after the health and safety of others, for example the public
  • Talk to safety representatives

The employee specific responsibilities include:

  • Take care of their own health and safety and that of other persons
  • Co-operate with their employers in enforcing health and safety practises
  • Not interfere with anything provided in the interest of health and safety

For a full guidance on complying with the Health and Safety Act click here.


Failure to comply with the Health and Safety Act can have serious consequences. Both employers and employees can face prosecution, with a maximum fine of £5000 per offence in Magistrates Court, or an unlimited fine and jail sentence in Crown Court.

Food Alert can help ensure your Health and Safety practises are up to scratch, with training, safety advice and guidance. For more information contact food alert at or 020 7244 1900.




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