How do regulations (like 'six pack') and codes of practice work?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) sets out the general principles and duties for the protection of the health and safety of employees. More detailed requirements are to be found in various other regulations and often an associated Approved Code of Practice (ACOP).

Regulations are approved by Parliament and have the force of law. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 require employers to make risk assessments but leave them with considerable freedom on how to control risks. However, some risks are so great that other regulations are needed to ensure that specific action is taken to protect health and safety.

Some of these other regulations apply to all employers, such as the Manual Handling Regulations, and the Display Screen Equipment Regulations (part of the ‘six pack’ of regulations, which turned European health and safety rules into UK law). Others apply to specific businesses and premises, such as mining and nuclear power stations.

ACOPs offer practical advice and contain examples of good practice. They advise on how to comply with the law. ACOPs do not have the same legal force as the regulations themselves, but they are considered 'admissible evidence' in criminal proceedings for contravention of a provision for which an associated ACOP is in force. They often set out requirements in more detail than the regulations themselves.