What Are Your Responsibilities Under the Health and Safety at Work Act?

What Are Your Responsibilities Under the Health and Safety at Work Act?

The Health and Safety at Work Act (commonly referred to as HSWA or HASAWA) lays out extensive employer and employee rights and responsibilities when dealing with well-being issues in the workplace.

The Health and Safety at Work Act, enacted in 1974, covers most jobs but it does not cover employers who work in high-risk sectors such as construction, therefore more specific laws exist to cover them. However, it also legislates for illegally obtaining and keeping certain hazardous substances, as well as “controlling certain emissions into the atmosphere”.[1]

This law is not the only one in force that protects employers and employees from threats to their well-being. Laws covering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that were enforced in 2018, and Display Screen Equipment (DSE) as enforced in 1992 and amended in 2002[2] are both still relevant for employers to examine. Both of these laws still take effect today and all organisations are legally obliged to implement them to the very best of their abilities.

The Act is enforced in law by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), who were appointed by the government. It is an “executive, non-departmental public body”[3] that works and collaborates across various governmental departments. As well as HASAWA, HSE enforces multiple other provisions including the 2002 COSHH act.

What Duties do Employers Have Under the Act?

Section 2 of the act exclusively covers the rights and responsibilities of the employer in the workplace,[4] and it says that organisations must secure the “safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business”.[5]

According to WorkSmart[6], some of the main duties of an employer are:

  • To provide a safe place to work
  • To provide safe equipment to use at work
  • To provide clean and appropriate facilities to ensure employee welfare

If these duties are undertaken, employment rights and responsibilities can secure these vital things if they fulfil their obligations to their workers. These include providing certain types of equipment and training to all staff members. A very important aspect of this that employers must do is carrying out a detailed and thorough risk assessment, to identify possible injuries and danger points. It is essential that this information is used to draft all consequent policy to secure well-being, and any provisions made should be written down and available to all in the organisation.

Equipment must be supplied to employees especially if they are handling hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. However, equipment should only be adequate enough for the needs of staff members.  Training courses need to be given, based off of the previous company risk assessments to inform members of staff of the potential dangers in the workplace as well as actions to prevent them.

What Duties do Employees Have Under the Act?

Sections 7 and 8 cover the health and safety responsibilities for employees to their employer in the workplace.[7]

All workers do have the right to a safe workplace, however they themselves are required to ensure that they create a safe working environment for all colleagues and those around the workspace. This means that they must abide by company policy and not interfere with or cause harm to other staff members, be it directly or indirectly.

Furthermore, members of staff must “not misuse any equipment that is provided for safety purposes”[8] and be attentive to any training that they are given. If employees miss training sessions or do not properly implement them, they threaten their own well-being and prove a liability to the organisation. Organisations are well within their rights to dismiss workers that are in violation to the Health and Safety at Work Act and, by threatening themselves or others around them.

You can view our suite of RoSPA approved Health and Safety online training courses here.


[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

[2] https://www.britsafe.org/training-and-learning/find-the-right-course-for-you/health-and-safety-legislation-what-you-need-to-know/

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/health-and-safety-executive

[4] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

[5] http://www.hse.gov.uk/workers/employers.htm

[6] https://worksmart.org.uk/health-advice/health-and-safety/employer-duties/what-are-my-employers-duties-under-health-and-safety

[7] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

[8] https://www.atl.org.uk/advice-and-resources/health-and-safety/duties-employees