Health and safety legislation - introduction

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover a wide range of basic health, safety and welfare issues and apply to most workplaces (with the exception of those workplaces involving construction work on construction sites, those in or on a ship, or those below ground at a mine). They are amended by the Quarries Regulations 1999, the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002, the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

This guide gives a brief outline of the requirements of the Workplace Regulations.


Requirements under health and safety regulations

Employers have a general duty under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work.

People in control of non-domestic premises have a duty (under section 4 of the Act) towards people who are not their employees but use their premises. The Regulations expand on these duties and are intended to protect the health and safety of everyone in the workplace, and ensure that adequate welfare facilities are provided for people at work.

These Regulations aim to ensure that workplaces meet the health, safety and welfare needs of all members of a workforce, including people with disabilities. Several of the Regulations require things to be ‘suitable’. Regulation 2(3) makes it clear that things should be suitable for anyone. This includes people with disabilities. Where necessary, parts of the workplace, including in particular doors, passageways, stairs, showers, washbasins, lavatories and workstations, should be made accessible for disabled people.

Using the following steps as guidance will help you to keep your staff at work and reduce the costs of injuries, illness, property and equipment damage. Please bear in mind that the following is guidance only and you may need to adapt your own policy to cover individual requirements within your specific place of work.



  • Ventilation: is fresh, clean air circulated from an outside source and warm, humid air removed on a regular basis?
  • Temperatures: as a general guide offices should be 16º c - 22º c and for less sedentary environments at least 13º c. Make sure you assess the needs of your staff taking into consideration both environmental and personal factors. Actions arising from this may include medical examinations, use of PPE, training, supervision, more frequent breaks and introducing engineering measures in the immediate environment.
  • Lighting: should be adequate to enable people to move around the workplace safely, should not in itself create a hazard and emergency lighting should be provided where needed.
  • Cleanliness and waste materials: the environment should be kept clean at all times and waste should be stored effectively and disposed of at regular intervals.
  • Room dimensions and space: Workrooms should have enough free space to allow people to move about with ease. The volume of the room when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it, should be at least 11 cubic metres. All or part of a room over 3.0 metres high should be counted as 3.0 metres high.
  • Workstations and seating: workstations must be suitable and must be able to be evacuated easily. Adequate seating should be provided with footrests offered for those who are unable to put their feet on the floor.



  • Maintenance: the workplace and all equipment, devices and systems within it should be maintained in efficient working order (efficient for health, safety and welfare). Such maintenance is required for anything which would cause a risk to health, safety or welfare if a fault occurred. The condition of the buildings needs to be monitored to ensure that they have appropriate stability and solidity for their use. This includes risks from the normal running of the work process (eg vibration, floor loadings) and foreseeable risks (eg fire in a cylinder store).
  • Floors and traffic routes: ‘Traffic route’ means a route for pedestrian traffic, vehicles, or both, and includes any stairs, fixed ladder, doorway, gateway, loading bay or ramp. These should be of sufficient width and headroom, to allow people and vehicles to circulate safely with ease, for example by keeping vehicles and pedestrians apart by ensuring that they use entirely separate routes.  
    • For drivers appropriate speed limits should be set, route markings and signs provided so they are warned of any potential hazards. Loading bays should have at least one exit point from the lower level, or a refuge should be provided to avoid people being struck or crushed by vehicles.
    • Floors and traffic routes should be sound and strong enough for the loads placed on them and the traffic expected to use them. The surfaces should not have holes or be uneven or slippery, and should be kept free of obstructions and from any article or substance which may cause a person to slip, trip or fall.
    • Criteria for defects such as subsidence, unevenness, pot holes, collection of surface water, cracks and ruts should be determined and set, and maintenance systems developed to undertake repair when these limits are exceeded.
    • Open sides of staircases should be fenced with an upper rail at 900 mm or higher, and a lower rail. A handrail should be provided on at least one side of every staircase and on both sides if there is a particular risk. Additional handrails may be required down the centre of wide staircases. Access between floors should not be by ladders or steep stairs.
  • Falls into dangerous substances: Dangerous substances in tanks, pits or other structures should be securely fenced or covered. Traffic routes associated with them should also be securely fenced. Duties to prevent falls from height in general are covered by the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
    • Transparent doors, gates, walls and windows: should be made of safety material or be protected against breakage, marked and apparent to those who use it.
    • Windows: should be capable of being opened, closed or adjusted and be able to be cleaned safely.
    • Doors and gates: should be suitably constructed, power operated fitted with safety devices and upward opening fitted with an effective device to stop them from falling back.
    • Escalators and moving walkways: should function safely, be equipped with safety devices and fitted with easily-identifiable emergency stop devices.



  • Sanitary conveniences and washing facilities: should be suitable, sufficient and in readily accessible places. Rooms should be adequately ventilated, clean and lit. Washing facilities should have hot/warm and cold running water, clean towels and soap. Showers may be necessary. Separate facilities should be provided to men and to women.
  • Drinking water: should be high-quality and in an adequate supply, provided in enclosed containers if there is no direct mains supply. These should be refilled at least once a day.
  • Accommodation and facilities for changing: an adequate, suitable and secure space should be provided. They should be readily accessible from workrooms, washing and eating facilities, ensure the privacy of the user and be provided with seating.
  • Facilities for rest and to eat meals: should be suitable, sufficient, readily accessible and with rest facilities. Seats should be provided for workers to use during breaks. Rest areas or rooms should be large enough and have sufficient seats with backrests and tables for the number of workers likely to use them at any one time, including suitable access and seating which is adequate for the number of disabled people at work. 
    • Work areas can be counted as rest areas and as eating facilities, provided they are adequately clean and there is a suitable surface on which to place food.
    • Where provided, eating facilities should include a facility for preparing or obtaining a hot drink. Where hot food cannot be obtained in or reasonably near to the workplace, workers may need to be provided with a means for heating their own food (eg. microwave oven).
    • Canteens or restaurants may be used as rest facilities provided there is no obligation to purchase food.
    • Suitable rest facilities should be provided for pregnant women and nursing mothers. They should be near to sanitary facilities and, where necessary, include the facility to lie down.
  • Smoking: From 1 July 2007, it has been against the law to smoke in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces in England, including most work vehicles. Similar legislation exists in Scotland and Wales. Further information is available at:



Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 - Details of the Act

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes general duties on everybody connected with work. The Act contains:

  • Regulations- these are legally binding and give details to act on and exemptions,
  • ACOPs (Approved Codes of Practice) – these are an accepted way to meet regulations, they are not legally binding but are quasi legal;
  • Guidance Notes – these are not legally binding and have no legal standing but are recognised as a supplement to ACOPs.


Section 1

States the general purposes of Part 1 of the Act, which are to maintain or improve standards of health and safety at work, to protect other people against risks arising from work activities, to control the storage and use of dangerous substances and to control certain emissions into the air.


Section 2

Contains the duties placed upon employers with regard to their employees. These are outlined more fully below.



Section 2(1) Ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees while at work.

Section 2(2)(a-e) Without prejudice to the above, the matters to which the duty extends include:

(a) Provision and maintenance of safe plant and safe systems of work.

(b) Arrangements for ensuring safe means of handling, use, storage and transport of article and substances.

(c) Provision of information, instruction, training and supervision.

(d) Provision of a safe place of work and provision and maintenance of safe access and egress to that workplace.

(e) Provision and maintenance of a safe working environment and adequate welfare facilities. (Note: the above duties are all qualified by the term "so far as is reasonably practicable").


The Safety Policy

Under Section 2(3) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974:

Every employer shall prepare (and as often as may be appropriate revise) a written statement of his general policy with respect to:

a) The health and safety at work of his employees; and

b) The organisation and arrangements in force for the time being for carrying out that policy, and bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all his employees.

The above duty has been modified by the Employers' Health and Safety Policy Statements (Exception) Regulations 1975 to exempt employers, who, for the time being, employ less than five employees, from the need to have a written policy (although not from the need to have a policy as such).


Section 3

Places duties on employers and the self-employed to ensure their activities do not endanger anybody (with the self-employed that includes themselves), and to provide information, in certain circumstances, to the public about any potential hazards.


Section 4

Places a duty on those in control of premises, which are non-domestic and used as a place of work, to ensure they do not endanger those who work within them. This extends to plant and substances, means of access and egress as well as to the premises themselves.


Section 6

Places duties on manufacturers, suppliers, designers, importers etc. in relation to articles and substances used at work. In simple terms they have to research and test them and supply information to users.


Section 7 - Places duties upon employees:

Section 7 (a-b) it shall be the duty of every employee while at work:

(a) To take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and others who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work.

(b) To co-operate with his employer or any other person, so far as is necessary, to enable his employer or other person to perform or comply with any requirement or duty imposed under a relevant statutory provision.

(Note: These duties have been extended by duties contained in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.)


Section 8

Places a duty on everyone not to intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided in the interests of health, safety and welfare.


Section 9

Provides that an employer may not charge his employees for anything done, or equipment provided for health and safety purposes under a relevant statutory provision.



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