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HSE revises guide to workplace health, safety and welfare

In an ideal world, everyone reading this would already know all about the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. However, it is not an ideal world, and there are plenty of managers who still rely on common sense, 'gut feel' and well-intended notions about what they need to do to comply with health and safety law in the UK.

Since the 1992 regulations were published, they have been amended by the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996, the Health and Safety
(Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Fortunately the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) appreciates that many managers lack a complete understanding of these Regulations and has therefore published an updated version of its guidance 'Workplace health, safety and welfare: A short guide for managers' (reference INDG244, rev1), which is available as a free PDF download from the HSE's website.

As well as outlining eloyers' responsibilities under the health and safety legislation (section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974), the guide explains how the Regulations expand on these duties and points out that, where the Regulations require things to be 'suitable', this includes everyone - even those with disabilities.

Many people reading this article will be primarily interested in machinery safety, but they should remember that workplace health, safety and welfare covers much more. The HSE's guide therefore devotes considerable space to issues such as ventilation, workplace temperatures, lighting, cleanliness and waste materials, room dimensions, and workstations and seating. Throughout, the guide gives basic information relating to the minimum requirements, which makes it an excellent starting point for those who have not previously looked into such matters in detail.

The guide is divided into three main sections: health, safety and welfare. Under 'Safety', it discusses maintenance, floors and traffic routes (for both pedestrians and vehicles), falls into dangerous substances, transparent or translucent surfaces (including doors, gates, walls and windows), windows, doors/gates, and escalators/moving walkways.

'Welfare' includes sanitary conveniences and washing facilities, drinking water, accommodation for clothing and facilities for changing, and facilities for rest and to eat meals. Note that smoking is no longer permitted in most indoor places in Scotland (other than private homes), and the same is likely to be true in England and Wales in the near future.

For those who read the guide and feel they need more information, there is a 'Further reading' section that gives details of numerous publications from the HSE and other organisations.

'Workplace health, safety and welfare: A short guide for managers' (reference INDG244, rev1) can be downloaded for free from the HSE's website.

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