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A Quick Guide to Health and Safety

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The Quick Guidedata books are intended as simplified, easily accessed references to a range of technical subjects. The initial books in the series were published by The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Professional Engineering Publishing Ltd), written by the series editor Cliff Matthews.

 The series is now being extended to cover an increasing range of technical subjects by Matthews Engineering Publishing. The concept of the MatthewsQuick Guidesis to provide condensed technical information on complex technical subjects in a pocket book format. Coverage includes the various regulations, codes and standards relevant to the subject. 

These can be difficult to understand in their full form, so theQuick Guidestry to pick out the key points and explain them in straightforward terms. This of course means that each guide can only cover the main points of its subject – it is not always possible to explain everything in great depth.

 For this reason, theQuick Guidesshould only be taken as that – a quick guide – rather than a detailed treatise on the subject. Where subject matter has statutory significance, e.g. statutory regulation and referenced technical codes and standards, then these guides do not claim to be a full interpretation of the statutory requirements. 

In reality, even regulations themselves do not really have this full status – many points can only be interpreted in a court of law. The objective of the Quick Guidesis therefore to provide information that will add to the clarity of the picture rather than produce new subject matter or interpretations that will confuse you even further.

Attention all employers, employees, managers and business owners, Health and Safety (H&S) is here to stay. I suspect you knew that already – in recent years the culture of H&S seems to have grown upwards and outwards, to the point where it now seems to impose upon almost every part of business life. 

I have spent a lot of my career dealing with H&S issues and somewhere, buried deep under the misinformation and padding, lies the well-meaning commonsense core of the subject – the duty of care to people, like you and me, in their working environment.

 Sitting at the top of the tree lies the system of enforcement, managed and implemented in the UK by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Together with their associated agencies and companies, the HSE publish numerous booklets, leaflets and documents, paid for by you, the taxpayer. 

These undoubtedly high-quality publications come complete with colour photographs and simplified abbreviations of the many sets of regulations that cover H&S aspects relating to factories, offices, buildings, construction sites and all other workplaces, in their entirety.

 Each document contains multiple cross-references to bits of itself, other documents and so on, ad infinitum. You are not alone if you find this suite of documents and their cross-references confusing. You might be forgiven for concluding that they are more network than route maps, and at times it can be difficult to know exactly which bits of this elaborate spider’s web apply to you, and, of those that do, exactly which are most important.

 This Quick Guide to Health and Safetyis not a statement of the law, or even a uniquely valid interpretation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shelf-bending tomes covering H&S subjects in the most myopic of detail – this is not one of those. It is a quick guide, as the title says. 

Its objective is to help you put the whole thing into some form of context, providing you with a rational overview of the subject. It can help you know where to start.