These regulations first came into force on 1 January, 1993. They were part of a set of new laws introduced at the same time, known as the 'six pack'.
Initially, existing premises enjoyed a period of exemption but this expired on 1 January, 1996 and now all workplaces are covered by these provisions.
What is a workplace
Regulations 1and 2 deal with the title of the regulations and certain definitions. The important definition is that of a workplace:
"... any premises or part of premises which are not domestic premises and are made available to any person as a place of work, and includes -
- any place within the premises to which such a person has access while at work
- any room, lobby, corridor, staircase, road or other place used as a means of access to or egress from the workplace or where facilities are provided for use in connection with the workplace other than a public road."
Premises can mean any place, including an outdoor place.
Application of the regulations
Regulation 3 lists those workplaces to which the regulations do not apply:
- a workplace on or in a ship
- a construction site
- mines or quarries etc
- temporary work sites
- operational means of transport
- agricultural or forestry workplaces outdoors and away from main buildings (except that regulations 20 - 22 apply to some extent).
Who is responsible?
Regulation 4 outlines who is responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations.
Where the employer is also in control of the workplace, it is the employers duty to ensure that the workplace meets the requirements.
Where this control is held by a person other than the employer then it is that person who is responsible for compliance.
Maintaining the Workplace and its equipment, devices and systems
under regulation 5, workplaces and related equipment, devices and systems, must be kept in a clean and efficient state, and in good repair.
Maintenance must be suitable and sufficient, and records should be kept to show maintenance programmes.
Examples of the 'equipment, devices and systems' include such things as emergency lighting systems, fixed window cleaning equipment, anchorage points for safety harnesses, devices to limit window openings, powered doors and escalators.
Ventilation and temperature
Regulation 6 requires the provision of suitable and adequate ventilation. This can be either by fresh or purified air. Ventilation is allowed by either windows and other openings or through a mechanical ventilation system.
Regulation 7 concerns temperature. It requires that, during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings must be 'reasonable'. There is a requirement for sufficient thermometers to be provided so that employees can easily ascertain what the temperature is.
The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) stipulates that, unless severe physical effort forms a greater part of the work activity, a normal temperature of at least 16° C is required. But, it goes on to point out that even this may not be considered sufficient.
The ACoP points out that excessively high temperatures have got to be controlled as well as low temperature.
Regulation 8 requires suitable and sufficient lighting to be provided. This must be by natural light, so far as is reasonably practicable. In other words, whilst it is permitted to use rooms with no natural light, workstations should be so positioned as to make the best possible use of all available natural light.
Wherever artificial light is required, a suitable system of emergency lighting must also be installed.
Regulation 9 requires workplaces, furniture, fittings, floor, wall and ceiling surfaces to be kept suitably clean. It also requires waste materials and rubbish to be kept to a minimum and stored in suitable containers.
Room sizes and workstations
Regulation 10 concerns room sizes and states that every work room must be large enough, including free space, to be safe to work in. The ACoP goes on to set a minimum of 11 cubic metres per person, counting any parts of the room over 3m high as only 3m high.
The ACoP makes it clear, however, that this may be insufficient to meet the requirements of the regulations, depending upon the amount of furniture etc in the room.
Regulation 11 covers workstations - they must be suitable for both the work to be done and the person doing the work, there must be a suitable seat, if appropriate, and a footrest must be provided if needed. Workstations outside must, where reasonably practicable, protect the worker from adverse weather and be easy to evacuate in an emergency.
Slips, trips and falls
Regulation 12 states that every floor and the surface of all traffic routes within a workplace must be suitably constructed and should be kept as free as possible from any obstructions that could cause slips, trips or falls.
Where surfaces are likely to become wet, either through the work process or because of spillage, a suitable system of controlling the risk of slipping must be in place - either through drainage, a clearing-up system or slip-resistant coating.
External traffic routes must have a suitable system in place for dealing with ice and snow.
Floors must only be loaded within their weight-bearing capacity.
Holes, slopes and uneven surfaces all pose a risk to health and must be properly controlled, through fencing, or repairs. The ACoP and Guidance notes give additional details about safe and secure fencing/guard rails.
Deep holes and openings are dealt with under Regulation 13. This regulation guards against two specific events:
- any person falling a distance likely to cause personal injury
- any person being struck by a falling object likely to cause personal injury.
Employers must take suitable precautions to prevent either of these occurring.
This should not normally be done solely by providing personal protective equipment.
Employers should also securely cover or fence any tank or pit where dangerous substances are stored and there is a risk of people falling into it.
Reps with members who work at height will want to obtain the HSE's guidance on the various protective measures.
Windows and transparent/translucent doors, gates and walls
Where there is a risk of breakage to any of these items, they must be constructed of suitable safety material and, if appropriate, marked so that they are clearly visible (regulation 14).
Windows, skylights and ventilators
Regulation 15 requires all windows etc to be easy and safe to open and close and, when open, must be safe. There must under regulation 16, be safe methods for cleaning and maintenance.
Moving around the workplace
Regulation 17 concerns safety in moving around the workplace, especially where pedestrians and vehicles come together within a site.
Pedestrian routes must be safe, suitable for the number of people expected to use them and, whenever possible, separate from vehicle routes.
Loading bays, and areas where vehicles have to reverse present a particular hazard and this must be adequately controlled.
Doors and gates
Regulation 18 requires all doors and gates to be fitted with viewing panels, if there is a risk of opening them onto people on the other side, sliding doors and gates must have a suitable stop to prevent them coming off the end of their track and upward opening doors must be fitted with a device to prevent them falling closed in such a way as to cause injury.
Escalators and moving walkways
Regulation 19 states that these must:
- function safely
- be equipped with necessary safety devices
- be fitted with at least one emergency stop control which is easily identifiable and readily accessible.
Sanitary conveniences and washing facilities
Regulations 20 and 21 set down the requirements for adequate sanitary facilities.
Sanitary conveniences for men and women should normally be provided in separate rooms. The only exception is if a facility is for a single person at any one time and the door can be secured from the inside.
The rooms should be well ventilated and lit and kept clean and tidy. Washing facilities must be provided 'in the immediate vicinity' of every sanitary convenience and must have a supply of clean hot and cold water.
The tables below show the minimum numbers of water closets, urinals and washstations that must be provided.
Table 1 is the general provision, whilst Table 2 shows an alternative calculation for men's facilities. A separate calculation for each group of workers covered is required.
Number of people at work
Number of water closets
Number of wash stations
|1 to 5||1||1|
|6 to 25||2||2|
|26 to 50||3||3|
|51 to 75||4||4|
|76 to 100||5||5|
Number of men at work
Number of water closets
Number of urinals
|1 to 15||1||1|
|16 to 30||2||1|
|31 to 45||2||2|
|46 to 60||3||2|
|61 to 75||3||3|
|76 to 90||4||3|
|91 to 100||4||4|
An adequate supply of wholesome drinking water must be provided (Regulation 22). Suitable cups should also be provided, unless the drinking water is in the form of an upward drinking jet.
If the cups are not disposable, there must be a convenient location to wash them. The preference is for a mains supply, though bottled water/water dispensers can be provided as a secondary source.
All workers should be provided with suitable space to hang any of their own clothes not worn at work - this can be within the workroom, if appropriate.
Where workers have to change from their own clothes for work, they must be provided with adequate and suitable accommodation both to change in and to secure their own clothes.
Where special clothing (eg uniforms, overalls, thermal clothing) is worn for work and left at work, there must be suitable accommodation for it, including adequate drying facilities, if it is likely to become wet. (Regulations 23 & 24)
Regulation 25 requires the provision of adequate rest facilities. Separate rest rooms must be provided if workers are unable to sit and rest at their workstations. Any such rooms or areas should contain seats and tables, in sufficient numbers for the workers who may use the facility at any one time.
Where workers are unable to eat meals in the work area (eg due to risk of contamination), there must be adequate provisions made within rest areas/rooms.
All rest rooms/areas must include suitable arrangements to protect non-smokers from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers must be provided with suitable rest areas.