The basis of health and safety legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This sets out general duties employers have in relation to health and safety obligations.
Although this legislation provides a framework for employers legal duties to keep employees and members of the public safe, it is guided by the principle of 'so far as is reasonably practicable' so is open to interpretation. They do not have to take measures to avoid or reduce risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk. Therefore, alongside this legislation, it is important to have a strong union presence and routine inspections and risks assessments (Inspections should be carried out every three months).
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) are more explicit about what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
The main requirement on employers is to carry out risk assessments. In addition, employers should make arrangements for implementing the measures identified by the risk assessment . They must appoint competent people (usually themselves or company colleagues) to help implement the arrangements, set up emergency procedures, provide clear information and training to to employees and work together with other employers sharing the same building.
Further information on health and safety regulations can be found on the HSE website.