40th anniversary of the Health & Safety at Work Act
31 July 2014
The number of people who lose their lives at work has dropped by 85% over the past 40 years, from more than 650 every year in 1974 to a record low of 133 today, new figures reveal.
The number of injuries at work has also reduced considerably by 77% over the same period, from 336,701 to 78,222. The statistics illustrate the enormous impact of an act that created a flexible, proportionate and world class regulatory system.
The 1974 Act paved the way for the creation of the Health and Safety Commission and the establishment of the Health and Safety Executive as we know it today – which regulates health and safety law working with industry to help them manage their health and safety risks effectively and also bringing irresponsible employers to justice.
Minister of State for Health and Safety, Mark Harper, said: "Britain has come an incredibly long way over the past 40 years in protecting its workforce. Our workplace safety record is now the envy of the world, with businesses and governments queuing up to tap into our expertise.
"Any death at work is a death too many. But few can dispute that the reduction in fatalities and injuries over the past 40 years is a significant step forward. Britain is now officially one of the safest places in Europe – and the world – to work.
"So, while we all rightly curse false health and safety excuses, it’s worth thinking how fortunate we are today that we can go out to do a hard day’s work safe in the knowledge that our safety is being taken seriously.”
Judith Hackitt, Chair of the HSE, said: ”Our health and safety law places responsibility on those who create risk to manage that risk in a proportionate practical way. It sets standards in terms of outcomes to be achieved, not by straitjacketing dutyholders and business into doing things in a particular way according to prescriptive rules.
"This means that it is universally applicable – regardless of whether you’re farming, fracking for shale gas or working with nano-materials in an ultra high-tech laboratory. The Heath and Safety at Work Act may be 40 years old but it – and our regulatory system - are world class.”