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1974 Act 40th anniversary

01 October 2014

On 1 October 1974 the landmark Health and Safety at Work Act came into force and since then workers fatalities have dropped almost 80% and non-fatal injuries have down by more than three-quarters.

On the 40th anniversary, John Hannett, general secretary at trade union Usdaw says: "This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Labour, or indeed any government, has ever introduced. Whilst there is always room for improvement on health and safety, clearly the change in the last 40 years is quite remarkable.

"This legislation has stood the test of time, with much of it still used regularly by our army of Usdaw health and safety reps. Much of the original vision and framework of the 1974 Act remains relevant today. The principles have been applied time and again to new and emerging technologies and sectors and the legacy is a safety record envied around the world.

"Today our concerns lie in enforcement and inspection of workplaces. The current government is obsessed with deregulation, claiming that health and safety inspections are not needed for ‘low risk’ workplaces such as shops and offices. It simply isn’t true that it’s only people who work in ‘dangerous’ industries who are at risk.

"Cuts and political interference from Ministers mean that most workplaces are no longer being inspected. Local authorities enforce health and safety in shops and they have suffered cuts, with latest estimates indicating that local authority inspections have plummeted by 90% or more since 2010.

"The truth is that there are health and safety issues which need to be managed, even in perceived ‘low risk’ workplaces. The law is needed just as much today as it was in 1974, to protect the health, safety and welfare of all workers."