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There are many definitions of accident, one common, broad definition is:
Any event, which causes or has the potential to cause injury, loss or damage to people, plant or premises.

It should be borne in mind that successful health and safety management must consider unplanned and unwanted events whether or not actual loss occurs. Thus “near misses” are included within the above definition. The HSE has used a more complex definition in their publications:

An accident is regarded as a unique sequence of unplanned events that results in injury or ill health of people or damage or loss of property, plant, materials or the environment or loss of business opportunity.

The acronym ACOP refers to Approved Codes of Practice, which are a type of guidance produced by the Health and Safety Executive. ACoPs provide detailed guidance on how to comply with health and safety legislation. In the UK health and safety legislation is goal setting rather than prescriptive. The law will set out aims and aspirations and it is the responsibility of the duty holder, e.g. the employer to determine how best they can comply with legal requirements.
HSE guidance will describe ways to comply - but it is not necessary to follow the guidance exactly. However, an ACoP has a specific legal status that distinguishes it from other guidance. An ACoP can be used in evidence in the event of a prosecution and a failure to adopt the advice set out in an ACoP will be regarded as having failed to comply with the law. It is the same scenario as found with motoring offences where a charge of, say, Dangerous Driving, will be "illustrated" by use of the relevant paragraph of the Highway Code.

Action Values:

The legislation describing how noise in the workplace should be controlled introduces the concept of Action Values. There are two Action Values i.e. the “lower” and “upper” exposure action values the former being expressed as a daily or weekly exposure of 80dB and the latter expressed as a daily or weekly exposure of 85dB. The above should not be confused with workplace noise legislation’s “exposure limit value” i.e. a daily or weekly exposure of 87dB.

British Standards:

A British Standard is a document that describes a technical specification or other similar criteria to materials, products, systems or procedures. With some standards it is possible for a manufacturer to be visited by an inspector and become "accredited" - an indication that they are meeting the standards e.g. ISO 9000 series for quality control or ISO 14000 series for environmental management.

The acronym CDM refers to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The CDM Regulations are intended to ensure the implementation of sound management systems to avoid, reduce and/or eliminate risks to the health and safety of workers in the construction industry. The Regulations place duties on all parties i.e. clients, designers, principal contractors, sub-contractors and employees.


The term CHIP refers to the Chemical (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 also known as CHIP4. These Regulations aim to ensure that those who use chemicals receive the necessary information to protect themselves, others and the environment when using chemicals.


The acronym COMAH refers to the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999. These Regulations set out the duties of those who operate industrial sites where chemicals are stored or processed and where there is the potential for harm to both people and the environment if a major incident were to occur.

Competent Person:

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require employers to have sufficient competent person to assist them in the implementation of preventive and protective measures.
Competence is taken to mean that the person has sufficient practical experience, knowledge and training however, there is no absolute standard and employers have to judge for themselves what level of competence is required.

In general terms it can be easily understood that a newly qualified graduate may have a high level of knowledge but will be lacking in practical experience. In contrast an employee who has spent many years working for an organisation may possess much knowledge and experience but lack sufficient technical training to appreciate all the risks in the workplace.

Confined Space:
A confined space is a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g. lack of oxygen).

Contaminated Land:

Contaminated land contains substances, either in, on or under which could cause harm to people, property, animals and livestock, or the environment. Contaminated land is also likely to result in the pollution of water in streams or ground water.

Control Hierarchy:

The development of health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act has resulted in the development of a hierarchy, or order in which control strategies should be implemented.

  • Eliminate: Stop a hazardous process or cease using a potentially hazardous substance
  • Substitute/Reduce: Use less hazardous substance e.g. water based paints in place of ones containing isocyanates or rotate employees/workers to limit exposure
  • Isolate/Enclose: Guard a dangerous machine, remove employees from a noisy environment by installing a sound proof enclosure or install an enclosure to contain hazardous fumes and vapours
  • Control: By use of engineering e.g. guards, procedures and safe systems of work e.g. permit to work

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) which set out the approach to be adopted for the safe use of potentially hazardous substances.

Dangerous occurrence:
A near miss or unplanned event, which is specifically identified in Schedule 2 of 'RIDDOR', and is reportable to the enforcing authority.

Display Screen Equipment - or the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992. DSE includes any equipment that contains a display screen, whether located at the supermarket checkout, the control room of a manufacturing plant or a typical office computer.


Environmental Health Officers - the employees of Local Authorities that are responsible for the inspection and enforcement of health and safety legislation across a wide range of premises and businesses in the retail, warehousing and distributive, food, office/clerical and similar lower risk sectors.

Electrical Installation:
An electrical installation is the system of switches, wiring, sockets and similar that serve a building. It includes all the equipment from the mains switch where electricity enters the building through to fixed lighting fitments, switches controlling the distribution of power to different parts of the building or to individual machines as well as sockets for powering portable electrical equipment such as hand held drills, kettles and microwaves.

Enforcement Authorities:
The Health and Safety Executive and the Local Authorities are the two bodies that enforce health hand safety law in the UK - they are the enforcing authorities.

Enforcement Notice:
HSE inspectors normally enforce health and safety standards by giving advice on how to comply with the law and sometimes we must order people to make improvements by issuing them with a notice, either an Improvement Notice or a Prohibition Notice.
See Improvement Notice and Prohibition Notice.

Environment Agency:

The Government Agency charged with enforcement of the legislation relating to environmental protection, preventing pollution and managing clean ups when pollution has occurred.

Environmental Standards:
There are a number of "standards" that describe the elements of an environmental management programme. British Standard ISO 14001 and the Eco Management and Audit Scheme are examples.

The study of the relationship between workers and their environment.

First Aider:
An individual who has undergone training in occupational first aid. Such training will have resulted in them receiving a certificate - and the training will have to be "refreshed" at regular intervals in order for the certificate to remain valid.

First Aid Box:

A first aid box is required wherever there is a risk of injury at work. It should be clearly identified with a white cross on a green background. The guidance that accompanies the First Aid at Work Regulations 1981 contains details of what should be included in a first aid box, such as plasters, dressings and bandages.

The Confederation of Registered Gas Installers - the body that is recognised as controlling the gas installation and maintenance industry. Only those firms that are registered with Gas Safe are allowed to install, inspect and maintain natural gas appliances.

Harm is a general, descriptive term used in the health and safety field. It can be used to indicate:

  • Injury - ranging from minor, small cuts to more serious injuries such a major burns and amputations
  • Ill health such as dermatitis, asthma or hearing loss
  • Mental ill health e.g. stress
  • Death

Something with the potential to cause harm. Thus electricity is a hazard, as are a forklift truck, a flammable substance or a substance that can cause cancer or asthma.

Hazardous Substance:
Any substance that can cause harm, for example:

  • Substances used directly in work activities e.g. adhesives, paints, cleaning agents
  • Substances generated during work e.g. dust, solder fumes
  • Naturally occurring substances e.g. grain dust,
  • Biological agents e.g. bacteria

Health Surveillance:
The term health surveillance refers to the range of process and procedures for checking the health of employees who may be exposed to health risks at work. It generally involves looking for adverse changes in health or bodily function and ranges from checking hearing levels to detect deafness caused by exposure to noise to analysing urine to detect chemicals that are indicative of exposure to harmful substances.

An employee who is employed at home - either on a full time basis, where the home is the "workplace" or where the home is used as base from which to operate e.g. a salesman, or service engineer.

The Health and Safety Executive‘s job is to help the Health and Safety Commission ensure that risks to people‘s health and safety from work activities are properly controlled. It collects statistics on accidents, carries out research into accidents causes and promotes good practice. It is also responsible for the enforcement of heath and safety legislation and thus carries out workplace inspections.

The Health and Safety Commission is responsible for protecting everyone in Great Britain against risks to health or safety arising out of work activities; to conduct and sponsor research; promote training; provide an information and advisory service; and submit proposals for new or revised regulations and approved codes of practice.

The HSC also has a specific duty to maintain the Employment Medical Advisory Service, which provides advice on occupational health matters.

The HSC consist of a Chairman plus members made up of representatives from employers organisations, employees organisations i.e. the trade unions and other bodies.

Improvement Notice
An Enforcement Notice is: issued when an Inspector identifies a breach of legislation. It will stipulate what improvements in the way in which work is undertaken, improvements in the safety precautions and controls or similar are required. An Improvement Notice will state the time within which the changes must be achieved

Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision:
This is a phrase taken from the general duties of employers set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It refers to the duty to provide workers with:

  • Information: on the hazards and risks associated with their work, systems and procedures that are in place etc
  • Instruction: sufficient to enable them to be able to recognise and control risks
  • Training: sufficient to enable them to perform their activities in a competent fashion
  • Supervision: as may be necessary to ensure that work is carried out in a safe fashion

Lone Worker/Working:
Lone workers are employees who work by themselves and/or with little or no close supervision. The term lone worker/working covers those who work alone on the premises such as security staff and others who work outside normal office hours e.g. computer operators and those who do not have a fixed work location e.g. mobile workers such as, service engineers and delivery drivers.
Lone working is not specifically prohibited by health and safety legislation but does require special consideration - a specific risk assessment should be undertaken even if the work is of the same or similar nature to that undertaken by groups of employees/workers.

Manual Handling:
Any process or work activity that involves lifting, carrying or moving and transporting a load. Manual handling includes pushing and carrying as well as moving and carrying.

Near miss:
Any unplanned event, which has the potential to result in an actual injury, or loss of or damage to plant and equipment. This definition does not include legally defined Dangerous Occurrences, which must be reported to the enforcing authority.

Thus an incident in which a forklift truck narrowly misses an employee and from which no injury results is a near miss. It should be reported and investigated in order to find out the cause and prevent it happening again but it is not a Dangerous Occurrence.

The failure of a piece of lifting equipment such as a crane, chain or mast of a forklift truck is a Dangerous Occurrence and must be reported even if no person was injured.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss:
Noise induced hearing loss is that which results from over-exposure to noise in the workplace. A temporary loss will be experienced after exposure to excessive noise, even after one working day. Continued exposure, day after day, will lead to a permanent loss.

Occupational Hygiene:

Occupational Hygiene is an applied science, which is concerned with ensuring that standards of health in the workplace are maintained. It deals with the chemical, environmental and physical factors, which may affect the health of workers. The practice of occupational hygiene is increasingly dominated by regulatory standards designed to protect the workplace environment.

Permit to Work:
A permit to work is a formal, written system of work, incorporating a statement that defines the scope of the work to be undertaken, the associated risks and the precautions to be taken.

Personal Hearing Protection:
A type of personal protective equipment that will provide the user with protection against excessive noise. The term includes ear muffs that cover the entire ear and ear plugs that fit inside the ear.

Personal Protective Equipment:
The term PPE covers anything that is provided to an employee or worker to provide protection and includes hard hats, eye protection such as safety spectacles and visors, overalls, waterproof outer garments, high visibility garments, safety shoes or boots etc.
It should be noted that "uniforms" that do not have a specific purpose of protecting against workplace hazards are not PPE. Thus the uniform of a bank clerk would not be regarded as PPE whereas the overall supplied to a refuse collector that incorporates reflective stripes and is of "tough" construction would be PPE.

Prohibition Notice:
An Enforcement Notice that requires the work or activity being undertaken to cease immediately and not to recommence until the required changes or improvements have been carried out. A Prohibition Notice is served when, in the opinion of the Inspector, there is an immediate risk of serious personal injury to employees or others.

The acronym PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 which set out the duties of employers relating to the supply of equipment and machinery for use at work.

Reasonably Practicable
The term “so far as is reasonably practicable” appears in much health and safety legislation. Its use denotes that that there is not an absolute duty but that the employer must determine to what extent they will control the risks. It denotes that a balance must be struck between the risks involved and the time, money and inconvenience required to manage, control or eliminate that risk.

It must be shown that the cost of any further preventive steps would be grossly disproportionate to the further benefit that would accrue from their introduction.

The acronym RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injurious, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 which describe what types of incidents and injuries must be reported to the enforcing authorities.

The risk is a combination of the probability or chance that a hazard will lead to injury and the severity of the outcome. Thus 240v electricity presents a serious hazard but if the electrical system of wiring and plugs are kept in good order and portable equipment is inspected regularly to ensure it is in good order the risk of electrocution is low. Similarly, concentrated sulphuric acid is a hazardous chemical because it is very corrosive and reactive. However, provided it is handled in an appropriate way the risks it poses may be small.

The term "risk" is often confused with "hazard". A high voltage power supply, a sample of radioactive metal, forklift trucks in the workplace or a toxic chemical all present a hazard, meaning that they have the potential to cause harm.

It is thus evident that hazards are something we can do little about. The hazards posed by a carcinogen, a concentrated acid or explosive substances are inherent properties of the material. The risks they pose, however, can be (and should be!) minimised by initially preparing a suitable risk assessment, and then following the procedures laid down in that assessment.

Risk Assessment

The process of:

  • Identifying hazards
  • Assessing and evaluating risk
  • Determining and implementing suitable controls
  • Monitoring the controls to ensure their effectiveness

Risk Management
Risk Management is the process of combining hazard identification with risk evaluation, exposure control and risk monitoring. It attempts to develop a suitable response to a hazard, taking into account all relevant regulatory, political, environmental, engineering and social factors that might be relevant. Risk assessments form a fundamental part of risk management.

The acronym RPE stands for respiratory protective equipment, which is anything that provides protection against inhaling potentially hazardous substances. Included within the term RPE are respirators for protecting against dusts and vapours, powered respirators that incorporate a battery powered pump and devices feed with compressed air from an airline or a cylinder.

Repetitive Strain Injury is a type of injury resulting from work that involves repetitive activity often associated with gripping or twisting motions. It is included within the more general term of work related upper limb disorders (WRULD).

Safe System of Work:

A written down procedure for carrying out a task or activity in a safe fashion. A safe system should identify the risks and the precautions to be taken to minimise them.

Safety Committee:
A safety committee is a forum where health and safety issues can be discussed. It provides a mechanism whereby employers can communicate and consult with employees/workers on health and safety matters. Where the firm has worker safety representatives the employer must set up a safety committee when a request for a committee is made by two or more safety representatives.

Safety Representative:
Where a trade union is recognised by an employer it has the right to appoint safety representatives. Once appointed safety representatives must be given time off, with pay, for training and allowed to carry out their duties which include:

  • Looking into complaints made by employees
  • Carrying our workplace inspections
  • Carrying out inspections after an accident
  • Attending meetings

Safety Signs and Signals:
The term denotes anything provided to warn or instruct employees and workers of risks and/or the actions that must be taken to avoid risks:

  • Warning signs
  • Fire safety signs
  • Hand signals e.g. crane banksman
  • Alarms e.g. reversing alarms

Sick Building Syndrome:
A set of signs and symptoms such as dry throat/eyes, headaches, stuffy or runny nose, that are thought to be connected to being present in a specific building. The symptoms generally lessen with time away from the building but will reappear on return to work. The condition is thought to arise from a combination of problems associated with poor air conditioning, lack of ventilation, presence of substances such as mould in the building etc.

Some substances which have been assigned an MEL also have a Short Term Exposure Limit or STEL. This is because they may cause acute effects after even a short exposure. The STEL is the concentration over a period of 15 minutes which should never be exceeded.

The Health and Safety Executive define stress as the adverse reaction to excessive pressure. If the pressure is intense and prolonged then specific outcomes such as depression and physical ill-health are alleged to result.

Work Equipment:
Any equipment such as machinery, appliances, tools and apparatus supplied for use at work. The term includes everything from forklift trucks and printing presses to hammers and electrical hand tools.

Workplace Exposure Limit:
A workplace exposure limit or WEL within a CoSHH setting applies to a substance hazardous to health. The application of a WEL to a substance means there is an  exposure limit approved by the Health and Safety Commission for that substance and such would be contained in the HSE publication "EH/40 Workplace Exposure Limits ….." which is updated as and when necessary.

Work Related Upper Limb Disorders are a set of problems associated with the hand, arm, shoulder and neck. Included are stiffness, aches ad pains, weakness, swelling, numbness, cramps and similar. They are caused by a wide variety of work that has in common forceful or repetitive activities often coupled with poor posture.

Young Person:
A young person is anyone who is not yet 18 years old. A child is anyone who has not yet reached the compulsory school leaving age of 16.

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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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