health and safety definitions

Health and Safety Definitions UK & Ireland | Audio-Visual Guide

Safeti has collated a must-know list of important health and safety definitions for business leaders. If a term has a link on it, it means that we have related site content which you can click through to view or listen to.

Look out for some of the podcasts and videos that we’ve embedded alongside the health and safety definitions, helping you to grasp the key concepts.

We are continually adding to this list of health and safety definitions as we grow our site – please let us know if there’s anything you would like included by leaving us a comment at the bottom of the page.

A to C - Health and Safety Definitions


An undesired, unplanned incident resulting in injury, ill- health, death or damage.

Accident Investigation

Process of determining the root causes of accidents, injury/illness, property damage, and near misses to prevent them from occurring again. The level of investigation should be appropriate to the percieved or potential level of risk and/or illness or injury incurred.

Workplace Accident Investigation Guide
Accident Investigation Guide
Acute exposure

Immediate exposure to a hazardous substance over a short time period.


A substance that causes an allergic reaction in the body.

Appointed Person

A designated person who has been nominated to take a supervisory role for a specific activity/event e.g. accident, injury or illness. The appointed person will have completed basic first aid training and have the skills and knowledge to deal with a first aid situation. Another good example, is an AP on a construction site, which is typically someone who is responsible for planning and control of lifting operations.


The name used for a group of fibrous silicate minerals that once inhaled, have adverse effects on health and can lead to fatal lung diseases.


The damage of lung tissue caused by asbestos, resulting in a shortness of breath.


An official inspection of the health and safety management arrangements of a premises, carried out by qualified auditors. The aim of an audit is to confirm that adequate control measures have been put in place to cover the risks and to ensure that these measures are being adhered to.

Best Practice

A way of delivering risk control practices which have been recognised by an authoritative body as cooperating with and even going beyond what is expected by the law.

Behavioural Safety

The application of behavioural research on human performance to the problems of safety in the workplace. Behavioural safety intends to change unsafe behaviour into safer behaviour.

Chronic Exposure

Multiple exposures to a hazardous substance over a long period of time. This typically results in chronic health impacts on the individual e.g. loss of hearing, reduction in lung function etc.

Safeti Podcast - health and safety definitions


Chartered Institute of Environmental Health – professional membership body concerned with environmental health and promoting standards in the training and education of environmental health professionals.

Code of Practice

A set of rules fixed by regulatory bodies (Health and Safety Executive) or trade associations which, although not law themselves, are intended to provide guidance on how to comply with the law.

Common Law

Unwritten law which has been devised through prior court judgements rather than from written law. A breach of common law can however, result in a criminal offence.

Competent Person

A person who has been adequately trained and has the appropriate skills and knowledge to perform certain health and safety tasks without posing a risk to themselves or others.

Find out more about Safeti’s flexible and affordable Competent Person Service.

Confined Space

An enclosed area that has the potential to cause serious harm from hazardous substances or conditions within the space e.g. lack of oxygen supply or increase in harmful gas levels.


A substance, usually a pollutant, which has been discovered in an area where it does not usually belong. It may have harmful effects on people, materials or the environment.

Control Measures

Actions that have been put in place to reduce the risks associated with work being carried out.

These controls are often referred to as ‘mitigation’ – see also, Hierarchy of Control.

Health and Safety Definitions UK & Ireland | Audio-Visual Guide 1
Hierarchy Of Controls

A substance that has destructive effects on another substance – see COSHH.


Chartered Member of IOSH – represents a high level of experience in the field of Occupational Health & Safety. Independent consultants who are Chartered with IOSH are eligible to register with the OSCHR scheme to help businesses choose competent advice.


The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health – this term is was created with the introduction of the COSHH Regulations in the United Kingdom – check out our podcast below for more help and download our free COSHH template.

D to F- Health and Safety Definitions

Display Screen Equipment

A device that has an alphanumeric or graphic display screen, such as a computer monitor. In the UK, this falls under the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992.

Emergency Plan

A plan detailing the exact actions to be taken in the event of an emergency with the aim of evacuating all persons from dangerous environments or conditions.

Employer’s Health and Safety Responsibilities

Your duty as an employer under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) and the associated Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations is to provide you with a safe and healthy workplace.

Listen to our podcast below to learn some of the key responsibilities for employers.

Working methods that have the potential to damage the musculoskeletal system, including forceful movements, vibration, extreme temperatures, improper lifting techniques and inappropriate workstations.

Explosive Protection

Preventative techniques applied to the manufacturing process of equipment for use in high-risk, explosive work environments.


There are 5 main classifications of fire;

Class A: fires with flammable solids such as wood, plastic and paper.

Class B: fires involving flammable liquids and electrical fires.

Class C: fires involving gases.

Class D: fires involving metals such as magnesium, potassium and titanium.

Class F: fires with cooking oils and fats.

Five – Why or 5 Why Analysis

Problem solving analysis method that helps to establish the root cause of an accident or incident – here’s an example of what a 5-whys diagram might look like. Alos, listen to our podcast for more help on this one.

5 Whys


The ease in which a substance will catch fire – information on this can be found in the SDS/MSDS (Safety Data Sheet).

Flash Point

The minimum temperature in which the vapour of a substance, when mixed with oxygen, will ignite when a flame is applied.

COSHH Assessment Template - Fume Cupboard
Fume cupboard

A method of ventilation, typically in the form of a cabinet with a moveable safety-glass front window. The air is drawn away from the worker or workspace to prevent contact with harmful vapours or gases given off by hazardous substances.

G to I - Health and Safety Definitions


Bright lights that reflect off a display screen and impede a person’s sight, often causing excessive eyestrain and headaches.


A device that prohibits access to a hazardous part of a machine or equipment.


A situation or behaviour that has the potential to cause harm, injury, ill-health or damage to property and the environment.

Find out the difference between hazard and risk –

Health and Safety at Work Act Etc. (UK)

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain – listen for more!

Health and Safety Executive

An authoritative organisation that enforces health and safety legislation in the UK, including statute, approved codes of practice, regulations and guidance on work-related health issues.

Health and Safety Report

Producing reports helps a business to measure performance and identify gaps and risks associated with any of the Health & Safety regulations to ensure compliance with industry standards and law

A health and safety policy sets out your general approach to health and safety. It should explain how you will manage health and safety in your business. The law in the UK says that every business must have a policy for managing health and safety.

Health and Safety Training

Continued professional development (CPD) that helps employees understand and fulfil their legal and organisational responsibilities as relates to health and safety in the workplace

Health and Safety Representatives

A person that has been appointed by trade unions to represent their colleagues in regards to various issues of health and safety in the workplace.

Health Safety and Environment

Health Safety and Environment (HSE or EHS) is the department in a company or an organization tasked with ensuring that the work done by the company does not cause undue environmental damage, put the workers’ health and safety at high risk, complies with applicable legislation, and follows best practices.

Health Surveillance

A process of observation that involves monitoring any early symptoms of work related ill-health in employees who may be exposed to certain health risks. These may include hazardous liquids or gases.

Heat Exhaustion

A condition caused by excessive exposure to hot temperatures, usually caused by profuse sweating in warm, poorly ventilated working environments.

Hierarchy of Control

The Hierarchy of Control or risk hierarchy is a system used in industry to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards.

It is a widely accepted system promoted by numerous safety organizations. Watch our video learn more…

HSE Statistics

The Health and Safety Executive (GB) produce an annual summary of workplace health and safety statistics. Data from different sectors is available to use for benchmarking.


An extreme physical response to particular substances or environments.


The International Institute of Risk and Safety Management.

Improvement Notice

A formal notice that is given by an authoritative health and safety body following a breach of law. The notice will state the committed offence, what action needs to be taken for improvement and the specified date by which it must be taken.

The process of gathering information regarding the causes of an incident, with the purpose of formulating control measures to prevent the incident from reoccurring.


The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is the world’s largest health and safety membership body. The IOSH mission is ensuring that global work practices are safe, healthy and sustainable.


A non-corrosive substance which can cause inflammation on the body through contact.

L to O - Health and Safety Definitions

LOLER Regulations

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations in the UK. Introduced to help prevent the failure of lifting equipment and related injuries.

They cover a wide range of equipment including, cranes, forklift trucks, lifts, hoists, mobile elevating work platforms, and vehicle inspection platform hoist

what is a near miss

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations

Also known as the ‘Management Regs’, these came into effect in 1993. Main UK employer duties under the Regulations include:

  • making ‘assessments of risk’ to the health and safety of its workforce, and to act upon risks they identify, so as to reduce them;
  • appointing competent persons to oversee workplace health and safety;
  • providing workers with information and training on occupational health and safety
Manual Handling Operations

Tasks that require a person to exert bodily force to transport a load by lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying an object.

Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS)

A document that details information on potentially hazardous substances, along with guidance on how to handle them safely. Learn more about control of hazardous substances here.

Method Statement

A document that details how a particular working process will be conducted in a safe manner, typically used for construction or installation procedures.

Near Miss

A term for those events that have not resulted in significant harm but have the potential to cause an accident, injury or damage under different circumstances.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

An incurable condition caused by both acute and chronic exposure to a loud or persistent noise.

An exposure to 80dB or more requires assessment and/or mitigation in the workplace environment.

health safety and environment health and safety at work act

Occupational Health

The relationship between a person’s health and the working activities that they undertake.

Occupational Illness

An illness that occurs in employees who have been exposed to hazards whilst at work e.g. asthma, dermatitis, asbestosis, silicosis, hand-arm vibration syndrome.

OSHCR  – Occupational Safety & Health Consultant’s Register

The Occupational Safety & Health Consultants register – the register is intended to help businesses find local Chartered and approved H&S consultants.

Want to learn more? We produce a podcast in collaboration with the movers and shakers of the H&S industry, the Safeti Podcast

P to Z - Health and Safety Definitions


A legally required statement of a company strategy, consisting of their objectives to attain a safe working environment, their responsibilities, and the arrangements for implementing the strategy and achieving their aims.

Preventive Maintenance

The regular maintenance of work equipment to reduce the risk of failure.

Prohibition Notice

A formal notice that is issued by an authorising health and safety body on discovery of a breach of statute that has the potential to cause an accident or injury. A Prohibition Notice commonly follows a serious accident, with the aim of preventing the hazard from developing or to put a stop to it if it is already in motion.

When the level of risk is weighed up against the cost (time, money, effort). If the cost outweighs the risk, then it may be deemed unreasonable for an employer to implement the measures. Learn more with out podcast and reasonably practicable guide.


Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 – RIDDOR puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the Responsible Person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses).

Risk Assessment

An examination of the potential risks in the workplace, with the aim of determining whether reasonably precautions have been put in place to prevent harm to people who may be affected.

In the UK, if you have 5 or more employees, you must keep a written record of your risk assessment.

Watch our video for more on risk assessment and try our free online course here!

Risk Management

The process of putting control measures into practice and monitoring the results, with the intention of reducing, or eliminating, the potential risks to health and safety.

Heinrichs Triangle Near Miss

Routes of Entry

Ways in which hazardous substances can enter the body, including inhalation, injection, ingestion and absorption.


An assessment carried out by the individual to determine how safely they are working and fulfilling their health and safety duties.


Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme – a common training used in the construction industry.

Statute law

The formal, written law of a country or state. An example would be the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Slips, Trips and Falls

The main non-fatal injury (31%) to employees as reported in 2017/18 was a Slip, Trip or Fall on the same level i.e. not from height.

health and safety templates

Substances, usually poisonous, that cause irritation and have detrimental effects on health.

A ‘toxic’ symbol should be displayed on the substance container, and control measures provided in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

Working at Height

Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:

  • work above ground/floor level
  • could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or
  • could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground

Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include using a permanent staircase. Here’s some more tips to manage Work at Height…


The static equipment that an employee requires to fulfil their working practices. In regards to Display Screen Equipment, the workstation is likely to include a desk, a chair, a computer monitor and a keyboard. This include Working from Home.

Health and Safety Definitions UK & Ireland

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