Who Is Responsible for Workplace Health and Safety?

There’s no denying the importance of workplace health and safety — protecting workers, visitors and customers from harm should be a priority for all businesses. Accidents in the workplace and work-related ill-health not only cause people harm, but they can also damage employee morale, destroy your brand’s reputation, and cost your business a lot of money. 

However, ensuring good health and safety is a big task, and when it comes to deciding who’s the task is, people are often keen to shift the responsibility to someone else. 

So which people within a business are responsible for workplace health and safety, and what duties do different staff members have?

Who Is Responsible for Health and Safety in the Workplace? 

No one person is solely responsible for workplace health and safety; it’s simply too big a task for a single person. So the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)  expects business owners, managers and supervisors, contractors and staff on all levels within a company to share the responsibility. 

However, that’s not to say responsibilities are shared equally. Staff in different roles will have different health and safety duties to uphold. For example, employers hold more responsibility than their staff as they are held accountable for the safety and wellbeing of their employees. 

Health and Safety Responsibilities for Employers

Business owners and employers hold the most responsibility when it comes to workplace health and safety. They are legally required to keep their employees and anyone who might be affected by their business safe from harm, including customers, visitors to the workspace, temporary workers and contractors. 

Employers should carry out the following duties to meet their health and safety responsibilities: 

  • Carry out risk assessments and method statements — employers need to follow the five steps to risk assessments to inspect the workplace and identify health and safety hazards and assess the risks they pose. They need to consider who could be at risk and how to protect them from harm. Once risks are identified and evaluated, employers will also need to implement effective safety measures, and create method statements for high-risk activities.
  • Consult employees about health and safety — employers are required to consult their staff about health and safety issues. Employees can have useful feedback about the hazards they face on a day to day basis.
  • Select suitable contractors — if employing contractors for certain projects, employers need to make sure they choose contractors with the skills and knowledge required to carry out work safely and efficiently.
  • Create written health and safety policies — writing up health and safety policies is a legal requirement for companies with more than five employees.  It’s also hugely important for communicating health and safety procedures to the whole company. 
  • Communicate health and safety information — once health and safety policies are written up, employers need to communicate them throughout the company. Employers need to ensure employees and contractors are made aware of existing policies and updated if there are any changes.
  • Display the approved health and safety poster — employers need to display the approved health and safety poster at all times. The poster displays important information about health and safety responsibilities. It should be displayed where every worker can see it, or if this isn’t possible, employers need to provide leaflets with the same information.
  • Provide safety equipment and PPE — it’s the responsibility of employers to provide the necessary safety equipment, such as first aid kits and personal protective equipment, needed to reduce risks in the workplace. Employers need to offer this equipment free of charge.
  • Provide effective health and safety training for staff — for staff to understand and act on risks, they need a certain degree of health and safety knowledge, and employers are required to provide health and safety training. Contractors too may need training, or at least they will need to be provided with health and safety information. 

Employee’s Health and Safety Responsibilities 

Employees don’t have as many responsibilities as employers, but still, the HSE states that “workers have a duty to take care of their own Health and Safety and that of others who may be affected by your actions at work.” 

Workers are responsible for health and safety too because, without their involvement, companies wouldn’t be able to effectively implement safety measures. Employees need to be on board with policies and they need to know which safety precautions to apply and when.  

Employee responsibilities include the following health and safety duties, and apply to contractors and freelancers as well as employed staff:

  • Follow health and safety training — while employers are required to provide health and safety training, it’s the responsibility of employees to follow the training. Training will give employees knowledge of a wide range of health and safety topics, from first aid to the safe use of equipment and hazardous substance control. Once training is complete staff are required to apply this knowledge to the workspace. For example, employees trained in first aid need to deliver this. Likewise, employees trained to safely use particular equipment must apply that knowledge each time they use it.
  • Implement health and safety policies — just as employees have to follow safety training, they also need to implement precautions outlined in the company’s health and safety policies. Health and safety policies will provide information specific to companies or projects, whereas training only delivers general health and safety knowledge. Staff must follow the safety procedures detailed in the company policy and implement any required safety precautions before starting a task.
  • Keep up to date with health and safety policies — employers should communicate health and safety policies with employees. When they do so, staff must take the time to digest the information. Staff should read health and safety policies and ensure they understand them. If any updates to the company’s policies or procedures are communicated, staff need to read these changes and implemented them as soon as possible. If any members of staff need to refresh their knowledge of health and safety information, they should use their initiative to revisit training materials or health and safety documents such as company policies, risk assessments and method statements.
  • Work with employers to ensure good health and safety — when consulted about health and safety matters, workers must give their full and honest opinions. By cooperating with employers, staff can help create relevant and effective health and safety policies.
  • Report safety risks and inadequate precautions — employees use the workspace and carry out potentially risky activities every day, so they may be more likely to spot hazards and failings in safety procedures. If workers come across hazards such as faulty electrical equipment, broken or ineffective PPE, or they notice safety precautions aren’t effectively reducing risk, they’re required to report this to their employer or a senior member of staff. 

These duties apply to all employees, but it’s worth noting senior staff may be required to have a deeper understanding of health and safety policies and regulations. 

Employers and contractors can take control of their workplace health and safety by joining CHAS. We offer access to risk mitigation and compliance services, and with our accreditation schemes such as the Common Assessment Standard, contractors and clients can achieve compliance across 12 key areas of risk management, including health and safety. Join CHAS today to efficiently manage compliance and achieve excellent health and safety standards. 

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