Issue date
31 Jul 2014

The Health and Safety at Work Act is one of the most important and successful pieces of workplace legislation ever, the TUC says today (Thursday) to mark the 40th anniversary of the Act, which received royal assent on 31 July 1974.

In the 40 years since the Act was passed, the number of fatalities in the workplace has fallen by 85 per cent while the number of injuries at work has fallen by 77 per cent.

However, the TUC is concerned that the government is seeking to remove a key part of what made the Act so effective – its universal coverage and its simplicity – by removing most self-employed workers from its protection.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Few pieces of legislation can be seen to have been as effective as this Act. We should be celebrating its 40th birthday and thanking those who drafted it.

“Unfortunately the present government is hell-bent on chipping away at the Act by removing large numbers of self-employed from its coverage. Ministers are planning to replace its universal coverage with complex new rules about which self-employed workers are covered and which are not. The will create huge challenges for employers, workers and regulators.

“While the Act has been successful in bringing down deaths and injuries in the workplace it has been less effective at preventing occupational diseases such as cancers, asthmas, dermatitis, back pain and lung diseases. This is still a massive problem and I hope that the Act will be used much more vigorously to address this challenge in the years to come.”

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