Health and safety

Topic Index
Common law duties
Health and Safety at Work Act
Health and safety law exemption for self-employed workers
Enforcement of health and safety law
Removal of health and safety strict liability
Directors' duties
Corporate manslaughter
Management of health and safety
Workplace and the working environment
Personal protective equipment
Work equipment
Manual handling
Display screen equipment
Fire safety
Accident reporting
Consulting staff



  • Every employer owes a duty, under common law, to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of their employees.
  • In addition to the general common law duty of care, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSAWA) imposes various statutory duties on employers. These are amplified in various regulations, the most important one of which is the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
  • Discrete topics (e.g. hazardous substances, fire safety, accident reporting, asbestos, REACH) are governed by their own specific regulations.
  • The maximum fine that may be imposed in the lower courts for most health and safety offences is £20,000. 
  • The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act enables organisations (rather than the individuals themselves) to be held liable for manslaughter where gross failures in the management of health and safety cause death. Those guilty of the offence can face substantial fines and publicity orders. To date, it's mostly smaller companies that have been pursued under this legislation.
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