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Health and safety legislation

Such as the Factories Act 1961 and Office, Shops & Railway Premises Act 1963 (which extended the Factories act to other buildings), and most notably, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, laid down minimum standards for cleanliness, space, temperature, ventilation, lighting, conveniences, clothing, accommodation and first aid.Ê The latter also states that organisations with more than 5 employees must have a Safety Policy (to include information on working conditions, hazards in the workplace, advice on protective equipment, manual handling of equipment, etc) and inform staff of its contents. The above Acts have largely been superseded by six EU Directives, most notably, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 and Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. The former requires employers to assess health and safety risks to employees and take preventative measures. The idea behind the directive is that many accidents can be avoided if due care and attention is given to each situation beforehand. Premises can be inspected at any time by Health and Safety Inspectors who have the right to demand improvements to safety, or ban some activities altogether. Failure to comply with the above acts can result in criminal prosecution, especially if a fatality or injury occurs. If found guilty of such a case, the employer involved can be fined or sent to prison for up to two years. In general employers are required to: make the workplace safe and ensure there are no risks to health; provide and maintain safe plant, machinery and systems of work; provide arrangements for the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances; provide adequate welfare facilities – ensuring minimum requirements are met with regard to ventilation, temperature, lighting, sanitary, washing and rest facilities; provide adequate information, instructions, training and supervision necessary for employees’ health and safety. Duties also involve: carrying out a risk assessment to assess the dangers of work activities; consulting with employees or a safety representative on matters relating to health and safety at work; drawing up a health and safety policy (where more than 5 employees are involved); reporting certain injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to the appropriate authority; and providing adequate first aid facilities. Overall employers must ensure, so far is reasonably practicable, employees’ health, safety and welfare at work. But, the above duties also extend to the health and safety of visitors and other persons who attend or use its premises and who may be affected by its work. Employees are required to: take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their activities; cooperate with their employer on health and safety matters; correctly use work equipment and machinery, including personal protective equipment, in accordance with training and instruction; not interfere with or misuse any items provided for their health, safety and welfare.

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