Investing in safety
A First Group case study

Page 2: Health and safety legislation in the UK

There are a number of different pieces of legislation that govern health and safety in the UK. Some specifically govern working conditions and working with hazardous materials, for example, chemicals. These pieces of legislation provide legal requirements for employers to lay down standards of health and safety. These include for example:

  • providing a written policy on health and safety and ensuring that this is communicated to all employees
  • providing training on safety procedures or use of work equipment.

However, UK health and safety law is rooted in one particular piece of important legislation. This is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This Act outlines the duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public. It also identifies the responsibilities that employees have to themselves and each other.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have to look at the risks in their workplace and take sensible measures to tackle them. At the same time employees also have to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at work. Employees must co-operate with their employers to ensure a safe working environment. They also have to make sure that the health and safety of others is not affected by their actions. At First, employees can use the safety contact pages in their Injury Prevention handbooks to record any identified safety issues. Issues might include hazardous conditions, unsafe ways of working, or a near miss. It also provides employees with the opportunity to suggest improvements in safety. The safety contact page is then used to report back to their manager.

The Secretary of State responsible for health and safety at work appoints the Health and Safety Commissioner (HSC) and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to make sure the Act is adhered to. The HSC and ORR ensure this through their enforcement bodies, Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) and the Health and Safey Executive (HSE). The HSE and HMRI enforce the Act through a number of activities. These include unannounced inspections of workplaces, health and safety audits and the provision of advice. The HSE and the HMRI can order improvements to be made in workplaces and can bring about prosecutions if people are found to be in breach of the law. The HSE and the HMRI's job is to 'protect people against risks to health or safety arising out of work activities'.

Meeting the requirements of the Act includes employers like First influencing the behaviour of their employees through training, policies and guidance. For example, First has a zero tolerance policy on the use of mobile phones and hands-free devices whilst in charge of a vehicle not just limited to buses and trains, but also to personal vehicles being used for business purposes. Speed limits on company property, advanced driving courses, keeping working areas tidy and wearing protective clothing are just some of the many measures taken by the company. These help to protect the health and safety of its employees.

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