Back to Insights Back to Insights

Before 1974 around 8 million employees in Great Britain didn't have legal safety protection at work. This is why the UK governement established the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), a legal framework to promote, stimulate and encourage high standards of health and safety in the workplace that helps protect employees and the public from potentially harmful workplace activities. 

Everyone has a duty to comply with the HSWA 1974, including employers, employees, trainees, the self-employed, manufacturers, suppliers, designers and importers of work equipment. 

In this article we explain the main points covered in the HSWA 1974 legislation and what your business needs to do to comply.

What is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974?

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 is the principal statute that governs the health and safety law in the UK. It sets an employer's overarching duties and responsibilities and provides a framework for secondary legislation to handle more specific aspects of health and safety matters. It is also a piece of legislation that every employer should be familiar with.

Who enforces the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974?

The HSWA 1974 is enforced primarily by the HSE. However, local authorities and other bodies such as local fire safety departments can also investigate suspected breaches of the legislation.

What are company directors’ duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974?

The HSWA 1974 provides that company directors must:

  • Ensure as much as possible the health and safety of their employees and anyone affected by the activities of the business
  • Run a risk assessment and make sure they are sufficient and suitable
  • Make and give effect to appropriate arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring, and review of preventive and protective measures that are required to eliminate or mitigate the risks identified in the assessments
  • Run regular audits to ensure all preventive and protective health and safety measures remain fit for purpose and align with the Act
  • Appoint one or more competent people to implement the measures needed to comply with health and safety laws and general duties related to it
  • Communicate health and safety information to workers. This information should concern identified risks. Also, it is important to provide regular health and safety training on the preventive and protective measures established to control those risks

You should regularly update your health and safety policy if your company has five or more workers.

Get legal assistance from LawBite

Taking occupational health and safety seriously will protect your commercial reputation and help you attract and retain talent. 

At LawBite, we know how hard it is to stay on top of constantly changing safety at work regulations and legislation. To find out why the Health and Safety at Work etc. act 1974 is important for your business and how we can provide further information and assistance, book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our lawyers today.


Book your 15-minute consultation


Additional resources

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

Free legal support for businesses

The LawBite Free Essentials Plan acts as your very own legal assistant, ready to provide expertise and guidance on the common legal issues that SMEs and businesses face.

Free Templates
  • X 3 legal document templates
  • Drafted by our expert lawyers
  • New documents added every month
Legal Healthcheck Tools
  • Business-specific surveys
  • Understand how compliant you are
  • Checks in, GDPR, IP, Brexit and more
Resources, Webinars and Articles
  • Access to the latest LawBite events
  • Legal guides for businesses
  • Smarter business law videos