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Health and safety legislation in the U.K

Every employer needs to take care of its workforce and not just the staff but people indirectly associated with them too such as suppliers and customers. The health and safety legislation was therefore created to safeguard the wellbeing of all these people.

The law can be traced back to the Factory Act of 1802 which was the first Act accepted by the parliament in the UK to protect the welfare of people at work. On 22 March 1974, a defining Health and Safety at work Act (HASWA) was introduced by the Secretary of State for Employment, Michael Foot which laid the ground rules for enforcement of workplace health, safety, and welfare. Implementation of these laws is done by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) along with help from local authorities.

Health and Safety Legislation in Construction

For people related to the construction industry, the specific health and safety legislation are collectively known as the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM). Passed in 2015, they apply to various people associated with the construction industry including contractors, project supervisors, designers, architects, and workers. Briefly, the CDM demands the following:

  • When working on any project, the principal persons involved should hire workers who have the right skills and knowledge for the job. If it’s a highly technical work then people with proper training and experience should be hired.
  • The principal designer or contractor should provide accurate and timely instructions. All the information vital to the project should be provided to the workers. Plus, supervision of all the workers from the start until the completion of the project is extremely vital.
  • Any project whether it relates to domestic or commercial use should have a written construction phase plan. The plan records the significant safety arrangements and risks involved with the project and lays out specific measures to overcome the identified risks.
  • For projects where more than one contractor is involved, in addition to the above-mentioned points, a principal director and contractor are also needed to be appointed. Plus a health and safety file (HSF) needs to be maintained. An HSF file is a record of risks that will be helpful in the future if the building is going through repair or demolition.
  • For large projects that last for more than 30 days and have more than 20 workers, the project manager is also needed to notify HSE.

Health and safety is a primary concern among all industries but in the construction sector, it is of particular importance. Statistics show that the construction industry has a fatality rate that is four times higher than other industries. Every year in U.K two or three children die when they gain unauthorized access to the construction sites. Therefore, HSE requires that all construction business should be conducted without putting general public or workers at risk. The project client should be aware of the hazards and risky situations and take all possible measures to overcome them.

Health and Safety Legislation for the Construction Industry

Severe Implications

If construction companies do not adhere to these laws, besides losing profitability and reputation, they risk severe implications by the law. Some of them are

  • Heavy fines by HSE
  • Getting permanently banned from working
  • Prosecution or conviction for criminal negligence
  • Getting sued for accidents or deaths

The health and safety legislations are formed to protect the interests of the people but it comes down to every one of us to take full responsibility to follow it. In case of construction companies, every employer has a duty to take maximum care of their employees as well as the public in order to be a responsible citizen.

We’ve written a blog on how to work safer in construction whilst remaining productive here.

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