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 Health & Safety Law Tips


Courtesy of

UNISON Scotland Voluntary & Community Sector Newssheet

Health and safety law and you

The UK has one of the lowest accident rates in the world. In part this is because of the pioneering Health and Safety at Work Act, and the various regulations made under this Act. These regulations have the same status as other laws.

If all the legislation on health and safety were fully enforced, then the United Kingdom would be a very safe place to work. However, many of the health and safety regulations are ignored in theCommunity & Voluntary sector. Managers and management committee members should be aware that they have a legal responsibility to comply with all health and safety legislation or risk prosecution.

Ignorance is not a defence, and you cannot delegate your responsibilities. However remember, compliance is not enough. Employers should aim to go above simply complying with the law and try to be a good employer, with health and safety built into the culture of the organisation.

The following Acts and Regulations are ones that are likely to be relevant to a typical Community & Voluntary sector organisation. They apply to all parts of the UK, although the name of the legislation is different in the case of Northern Ireland.

Health and Safety at Work Act

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is the main piece of health and safety legislation. It puts a duty on employers to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees and to ensure their activities do not endanger others. It says that you must have a safety policy and you must consult with your workforce. The Act also allows the Secretary of State to make regulations on health and safety. This power has been used to introduce most subsequent health and safety legislation.

The Six Pack

The six pack is a set of six regulations all introduced at the end of 1992 following a European directive. Some have since been updated. The regulations are:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations - these say that employers must have health and safety management systems and conduct risk assessments.

  • The Display Screen Equipment Regulations - these cover most VDUs and state that employers must carry out assessments of workstations, meet certain standards and provide breaks, eye tests and training.

  • The Manual Handling Operations Regulations - These regulations say employers must remove the risk from manual handling by avoiding lifting, pushing, pulling and moving activities wherever possible, automating the process, or reducing the risk through other means. Again it requires a risk assessment to be done by the employer.

  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations - Employers must provide suitable personal protective equipment when other safety measures will not remove the risk. Personal protective equipment must be free of charge.

  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations - These deal with all equipment. Not just industrial machinery, but also photocopiers, knifes, computers etc. They must be suitable, safe and maintained.

  • The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations - These lay down general principles of welfare, including ventilation, temperature, cleanliness, washing facilities and rest rooms.


The Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations, commonly known has CHIPs, cover the classification and labelling of chemicals. They say you must keep safety datasheets on all chemicals where there is a possible hazard, including those used for cleaning.


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations covers all dangerous substances, not just chemicals. They say that employers must conduct a risk assessment, control the hazard, and give information and training.


The Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations state employers must report and keep a record of, certain accidents and incidents. A more detailed guide to health & safety law is available to download from UNISON's website: 'Guide to the six pack' New, revised edition of the guide to six European health and safety regulations. Updated September 2000 Acrobat PDF version http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/10349.pdf


UNISON members should ask their employer if they would like to know more about working in partnership with UNISON, email: cvsu@unison.co.uk with details.


  • Have you got an up to date safety policy?

  • Do you consult with staff on health & safety?

  • Do you display the statutory Health & Safety notice in your premises?


Source: Risks 140



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