A Brief History of Health and Safety

by | Oct 9, 2017 | Commercial, DIY Tips, Home

Although we come across health and safety on a daily basis, whether this is PPE or work guides. But throughout all the encounters have you ever wondered where it all began? Where the initial spark of safety legislation started and how it evolved to be part of everyday life within the UK?

In this article we are going to be doing just that, going right back to the start and filling your head with knowledge all about the health and safety industry. Year by year we will be breaking down the progress that was made in making your life safer.

Let start in the 1800’s…


Factories Act 1833

In 1833 a group of inspectors were appointed to prevent injury and overworking in textile factories, there main focus was on child labour. Initially there was 4 inspectors which were responsible for around 3,000 mills, this soon grew 35 inspectors by 1868 which were separated by regions to manage these mills more efficiently.

There was also changes in this legislation between 1860 and 1871 which expanded the inspector’s jurisdiction to also cover all workplaces. However with the upcoming world wars these inspectors had an increased challenge with the increase in rapid manufacturing.

Mines Act 1842

Similar to the Factories Act 1833, the Mines Act 1842 selected a group of inspectors to manage the suitable working conditions within the mines. A year later the first inspect Hugh Seymour Tremenheere was appointed, however he had reduced powers. By 1850 these inspectors could ensure the mine and inspect the workplace.

Quarries Act 1894

The quarries act 1894 extended a regulation called the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act 1872 which gave powers to inspectors to enforce provisions of notifying accidents.



Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956

This act was put in place to protect the workers who came into contact with agricultural machinery, equipment or vehicles. With many points raised in this act, they helped to reduce fatalities and injuries from work place activities.

Nuclear Installations Act 1959 which established the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate

On the back of a major nuclear incident, a range of recommendation were made from the UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority). This paved the way for the 1959 Act to be passed outlining the regulations regarding the industry and appointing further inspectors to ensure the workplace was safe.

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 & Health and Safety Executive was formed in 1975

In the years 1974 and 1975 a huge reform was on the horizon with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the setting up of the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive that was formed in 1975. Over these three huge events came a huge list of regulations and recommendations for working in all types of workplaces.  In the years after this reform came many regulations and acts that built the health and safety environment we now know.

The following regulations and acts were created after 1975, perhaps you have heard of a few:

  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
  • Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1980
  • Notification of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1980
  • Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981
  • Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983
  • Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1984
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1985
  • Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985
  • Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations
  • Noise at Work Regulations 1989
  • Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994
  • Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996
  • Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
  • Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999
  • Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2007)
  • Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008
  • The Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010
  • The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
  • The Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations
  • Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Repeals, Revocations and Amendments) Regulations 2013

So as you can see there is a lot that has gone into the development of the current health and safety standards, from the earliest regulations and acts in the 1800’s to now. Since 1975 the biggest regulation was the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 which helped to increase the amount of protective equipment in the workplace. With items such as hard hats and steel toe cap boots being some of the many available in this category.

Read through our useful guide for more information

Let us get you started with your own self build