1974 and all that

The first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Woolwich London, the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus broadcast on BBC 2, Kate Moss and Robbie Williams were born, London Zoo received a gift of giant pandas – Ching-Ching and Chia-Chia – and Teenage Rampage by Sweet was in the charts.

Remember all of this? well, what I wasn’t aware of aged 14 was the death of 10 miners in a methane gas explosion at Golborne Colliery near Wigan Lancashire, the Flixborough disaster that resulted in the death of 28 people in South Humberside, or the advent of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

40 years later, as occupational health and safety policy adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), I have used this pivotal piece of legislation for reference, as a training tool and as a means by which to engage with organisations about the topic of health and safety.

It has stood the test of time and in spite of its critics has provided a framework for improvement in health and safety standards across the UK.

The proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach promulgated by the act,

Karen McDonnell

Karen McDonnell

associated guidance and codes of practice, has resulted in a significant downturn in the number of people killed, seriously injured or developing life-limiting conditions as a consequence of poor working conditions.

An overall reduction from 651 fatalities in 1974 to 148 (employees and self employed) in the year 2012/13, real evidence that the approach set out by Lord Robens has worked for UK plc, performance improvement that is envied across the world.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act has held its own at the heart of the health and safety system, offering a core set of principles that can be universally applied. Competent health and safety practitioners and campaigning organisations such as RoSPA hold these principles dear and recognise the contribution that the act has made in saving lives and reducing injuries to workers across the UK.

Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s occupational health and safety policy adviser

2 Responses to “1974 and all that”

  1. Good blog, an excellent reminder why we need legislation in the first. Place.



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