31 July 2014
40 years ago today (31 July 1974) the Health and Safety at Work Bill received Royal Assent. The Act introduced a new regulatory framework for safety in UK workplaces. It required employers to assess and manage the risk to the health, safety and welfare of their workers. The act encouraged cooperation between government, employers and trade unions in managing the health and safety needs of the workforce.
Since the introduction of the act, workplace injuries have fallen by 77%, and workplace fatalities by 85%. Even when adjusting for the decline in heavy industry, these figures are remarkable. The UK is now one of the safest countries in the world in which to work.
But workplace safety still has a way to go, as Frances O’Grady says “While the Act has been successful in bringing down deaths and injuries in the workplace it has been less effective at preventing occupational diseases such as cancers, asthmas, dermatitis, back pain and lung diseases. This is still a massive problem and I hope that the Act will be used much more vigorously to address this challenge in the years to come.”
She also points out the great threat to the Act in the coalition’s intended changes; “the present government is hell-bent on chipping away at the Act by removing large numbers of self-employed from its coverage. Ministers are planning to replace its universal coverage with complex new rules about which self-employed workers are covered and which are not. The will create huge challenges for employers, workers and regulators”.
The changes to the Health and Safety Act form part of the Deregulation Bill.
Read the Deregulation Bill here