LRD Booklets July 2017

Health and safety law 2017

Introduction

Introduction

[pages 9-11]

This latest edition of the Labour Research Department’s annual guide to health and safety law, Health and Safety Law 2017, is being published at a time of considerable uncertainty, shortly after the June 2017 general election which resulted in a hung parliament. As the booklet went to press, the Conservatives had completed a £1 billion deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up their minority government and Brexit negotiations, to determine the terms under which the UK will leave the European Union (EU), were just underway.


The TUC has warned that leaving the EU under a Conservative administration could put millions of UK workers at increased risk of accidents or injuries. Its EU membership and health and safety report explains that EU legislation has helped stop illnesses and injuries at work and saved lives. 



It says: “Much of the health and safety law in the UK is now underpinned by the EU. Almost two-thirds (63%) of new British health and safety regulations introduced between 1997-2009 originated in Europe (41 out of 65 laws).” It adds that: “These new safety rules have contributed to a reduction in workplace fatalities in the UK. In 1992 there were 368 worker fatalities in Britain; this dropped to 142 last year. Over this period, the rate of deaths fell from 1.5 to 0.46 per 100,000 workers.”



Previous Tory governments have made clear their intention to reduce so-called “red tape”, and the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto promised to “continue to regulate more efficiently, saving £9 billion through the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In-Two-Out Rule”. In addition, it set out that a Conservative government would enact a Great Repeal Bill, converting EU law into UK law. The manifesto promised only that “the rights of workers and protections given to consumers and the environment by EU law will continue to be available in UK law at the point at which we leave the EU.” It went on to make clear that, “once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses, as will the devolved legislatures, where they have the power to do so.”


Although the Conservatives do not now have a majority in Parliament to implement their manifesto commitments, their track record is one of attacking workers’ rights and health and safety protection at work. In addition, the DUP’s manifesto set out that it would support “introducing a Better Business Initiative that will systematically review health and safety legislation working in concert with sectors such as construction”.


The Queen’s speech set out that there will be a bill to repeal the European Communities Act and that ministers “will seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace”. The government will also “make further progress” to tackle discrimination and there will be legislation to protect the victims of domestic violence and reform of mental health legislation. Following the Grenfell Tower fire in which at least 80 people have died, the government has promised a full public enquiry (see Chapter 3).


The role of the union movement’s 100,000 safety reps, along with effective solidarity and collective action to champion safe working practices, are therefore as important now as they have ever been. It is crucial for reps to continue to link health and safety and organising in the interests of all workers, as well as continuing to campaign at local and national level.



It is also extremely important for reps to have a good knowledge of health and safety legislation. This booklet sets out the law using clear and practical language, explains the changes that have taken place since the last edition, and addresses further changes and likely developments for 2017-18. It is aimed at trade union members and reps, and will be of particular use to safety reps.



Health and safety law 2017 aims to provide trade union reps and safety reps with a comprehensive guide to the law on health and safety at work. The booklet examines the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the regulations made under the Act that deal with specific areas of health and safety. It looks at:



• the basic structure of health and safety law (Chapter 1);



• health and safety enforcement (Chapter 2);



• the management of health and safety (Chapter 3);



• safety representatives and safety committees (Chapter 4);



• the workplace and the working environment (Chapter 5);



• hazardous substances (Chapter 6);



• work equipment and clothing (Chapter 7);



• physical hazards, such as manual handling and repetitive tasks, fire, noise, vibration, radiation, electricity and gas (Chapter 8);



• hours of work (Chapter 9);



• the reporting of accidents and ill health (Chapter 10); and



• stress, bullying, harassment and violence (Chapter 11).



Sources

The Acts and regulations referred to in this booklet can all be found on the Legislation UK website at: www.legislation.gov.uk.

Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) and guidance on regulations are published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and can be downloaded free of charge from its website at: www.hse.gov.uk.



This booklet also provides examples from legal claims, known as “case law”. In each instance the case reference is given, consisting of the name of the individual or body making the application to the Court and the individual or body against whom it is being made.



For example, Allison v London Underground Ltd [2008] IRLR 440, tells you that the applicant was called Allison, the case was brought against London Underground Ltd and that the judgment was reported in the law reports for 2008. The letters IRLR stand for the publication it was reported in, Industrial Relations Law Reports, and the number 440 that the case was reported on page 440.



Other relevant court cases and employment tribunal decisions not reported in IRLR are referenced wherever possible, either as they appeared in the press, or by the Court or tribunal reference number.


The Labour Research Department (LRD) provides an enquiry service for affiliates and deals with many health and safety enquiries from union members and reps. See: www.lrdpublications.org.uk/affiliations.php, for details of how to affiliate.



The monthly publications Safety Rep, Labour Research and Workplace Report also include many health and safety topics, as do some LRD booklets. For further information and ordering details see the LRD website at: www.lrdpublications.org.uk.