Health and Safety Regulations in the UK

The primary health and safety legislation in Great Britain is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. (Northern Ireland has separate legislation but the details are identical).  The act sets out broad brush requirements in a goal setting format.  It makes provision for the enactment of more specific regulations.  Further details about the Act including a link to the full text can be found on the HSE website – click here.

There is a common misconception that the only legislation that concerns construction is the various specific construction regulations such as the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) and other regulations associated with specific construction activities such as work at height, etc. However several recent prosecutions which could have proceeded under the specific Regulations have instead been laid for a breach of the Act.  It is incumbent on all who control the activities of any business to have a full working knowledge of the requirements of the Act as it may apply to their activities. 

It was the Act, and not the Regulations, which first placed a legal responsibility upon designers to consider the effects of their designs on construction activities as well as the users of a project. Regulations and their associated Approved Codes of Practice, however, provide a more practical interpretation of the goal setting duties in the Act.

Regulations often originate from EU Directives, but are enacted as ‘Regulations’ made under the authority of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. In Great Britain the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are responsible for shaping and reviewing regulations, producing research and statistics and enforcing the law. Many sets of Regulations are accompanied by an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which provides advice on how to comply with the regulations and has special status in law. These are available from the HSE Bookshop and are also downloadable free of charge from the HSE web-site – links set out below.

The following table sets out those regulations which generally cover the construction process. It is presented in five categories: management, materials, health, safety and plant. Some specialist regulations may not be included and those relating to general work activities, e.g. use of display screen equipment (computers), are also excluded. 

GB Health and Safety Regulations:

A. Management

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM)
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR)
The Confined Spaces Regulations

B. Materials and substances

The Control of Asbestos Regulations
Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
The Control of Lead at Work Regulations

C. Health

Control of Noise at Work Regulations
Control of Vibration at Work Regulations
Manual Handling and Operations Regulations

D. Safety

Work at height Regulations
Electricity at Work Regulations
The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations

E. Plant and equipment

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations
Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations

The text of the above regulations and pdf versions of any associated ACoP and/or HSE guidance can be accessed via the HSE website –click here for details. This excludes the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order which can be found here.
The construction industry has also produced guidance on the CDM Regulations, including guidance for designers, which is hosted on the ConstructionSkills website - click here.

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