How Health & Safety Law Changed In The Last 25 Years
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is now more than 30 years old, and while this legislation remains the most authoritative piece of health and safety law in the UK, a lot has changed in practice since its introduction. Health and safety is becoming an increasingly important part of employers' legal compliance obligations, owing in part to the dramatic rise in employees who pursue health and safety claims against their employers and the influence of external factors. This post looks at the development of health and safety at work in recent years and the factors causing such change.
The internet and online legal resources have made it much easier for employees to learn about their right to personal injury compensation if they are injured at work, and how to make a claim against their employer.
Employees are now more aware of the fact that claims can be made for slips, trips and falls, industrial disease and other accidents which may occur in the workplace. This has been assisted by both the courts and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) becoming increasingly strict about the duty of care owed to employees by their employer.
In the last 25 years, the UK workforce has changed dramatically – in fact, it is almost unrecognisable. More than 3 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared, replaced instead by jobs in the service sector. Furthermore, part-time workers now make up a much greater proportion of Britain’s workforce than in previous years. These changes have greatly influenced the law on health and safety at work, strengthening rights for temporary, part-time and agency workers, and also developments in the type of accidents which more frequently occur in the workplace.
The influence of the EU in health and safety law in the UK has been substantial. The principle of free movement of workers in EU law means that all workers in the EU should have the same basic levels of rights to health and safety at work, resulting in a stream of legislation from Brussels. Between 1986 and 1996, a number regulations referred to as the ‘six pack’ sought to refine and improve the level of health and safety protections for workers throughout the EU.
In recent years, policy makers have been focussed on improving health and safety in the UK and meeting new challenges. One such challenge is that of occupational health. In 2000, the government set clear health and safety targets for the first time in history, with an emphasis on improving occupational health. Further, in 2010, a strategy for health and safety in the UK was published by HSC outlining the vision that the UK should aim ‘to achieve a record of workplace health and safety that leads the world’.
As can be seen from the developments above, there has been a clear and consistent improvement in health and safety law in the UK with a view to improving the lives of workers. It can only be anticipated that standards will continue to rise over the next 25 years, so it is important that employers and other interested parties keep up to date with their obligations under the law.
Over the last 25 years it has become obvious that health and safety is imperative in any workplace. Therefore, it is absolutely key that employers and staff members are well aware of the serious & important aspects of health and safety, and if they're not, training such as the NEBOSH National Diploma, NEBOSH General Certificate, IOSH Managing Safely or more general health and safety training should be a high priority.