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Birmingham City Council

Social Sciences: Hot Topics - Health and Safety at Work

Everybody in the workplace has the right to work in both a safe and healthy environment. Health and safety rights apply to anyone in the workplace, employee or worker and this includes other workers or even visitors who are not directly under the control of the employer.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 your employer has to ensure that you do not become ill or suffer any injuries while at work and this is referred to as the duty of care.

Every employer must have a health and safety policy. Hazards that you may face while at work should be made clear and the steps that will be taken to prevent these risks.

A Risk Assessment must be conducted by a workplace safety representative or a safety representative appointed through a trade union. An employer must at least:

1) Maintain machinery and work systems
2) Ensure risks are avoided when handling, storing or transporting substances or articles
3) Provide information, training and supervision
4) Maintain safe access to and from the workplace
5) Prepare a statement of general policy on health and safety and ensure standards are met
6) Ensure that there are safety representatives and consult with them.


Health and Safety Commission (HSC)

The Health and Safety Commission is a body of 10 people appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. HSC main function is to make arrangements to ensure the safety, health and welfare of people at work and the public.

The HSC is empowered to issue or improve Approved Codes of Practice (AcoPs) or Approved Guidance Text. The most commonly known regulations are the "six pack" and all came into force in 1993. They cover:

Manual Handling

Personal Protective Equipment
Display Screen Equipment
Workplaces
Work Equipment
Safety Management


Guidance notes do not have any status in law but are topic specific and are written in plain English.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), 1999, were first produced in 1988 and have since been revised. They were brought out because there was an alarming increase in cases of occupational ill health due to exposure to toxic or industrial substances. Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a body of three people appointed by the Commission with the consent of the Secretary of State for Transport, Local government and the regions. The Executive both advises and assists the Commission. The Executive staff includes: inspectors, policy advisors and specialised experts. It has statutory responsibilities for the enforcement of Health and Safety Law. The HSE or local environmental health officers conduct inspections in the workplace.

Social Sciences Library has resources for Employment Law and this material covers Health and Safety at Work. The Science Library has material and resources regarding all aspects of Health and Safety.

Please refer to our catalogue for books on this subject and their availability.

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