Health And Safety At Work Etc. Act 1974

Last updated: September 4, 2022

What Does Health And Safety At Work Etc. Act 1974 Mean?

The “Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974” (HASAWA, alternately HSWA 1974 or HASWA) is the primary piece of legislation governing occupational health and safety in the United Kingdom.

HASAWA provides the legal backbone for the majority of the OHS regulations in the UK. As an enabling act, any new OHS legislation—such as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98)—is introduced into UK law under the auspices of HASAWA.

The act also provides enforcement mechanisms to ensure that workplaces meet regulation standards through oversight and inspection of workplaces, and, in the case of non-compliance, legal penalties, including civil and criminal penalties.

Additionally, HASAWA acts as the mechanism through which the United Kingdom’s OHS regulations are altered to comply with regulations prescribed under EU law.

Safeopedia Explains Health And Safety At Work Etc. Act 1974

The primary body responsible for enforcing HASAWA is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE is responsible for enforcing both the regulations contained within HASAWA itself and regulations made through pieces of secondary legislation (statutory instruments) that refer to HASAWA for legal justification. HASAWA also allows the HSE to delegate many of its enforcement functions to local government councils (typically city councils and borough councils). Enforcement in Northern Ireland is handled by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI). While most industries are governed by HASAWA, health and safety regulations related to railway safety are handled by a separate agency.

The three main objectives of HASAWA are to secure the health, safety, and welfare of workers; to secure the health and safety of non-workers from hazards related to worksites; and to limit and control the use of dangerous substances within the United Kingdom. As with OSHA’s General Duty Clause, HASAWA requires employers to take all reasonable precautions necessary to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees, separately from any specific safety regulations contained in the act or in secondary legislation. HASAWA also provides all employers with the same general duty to protect the health and safety of non-employees in the work area, including the general public.


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