Why is health and safety important in the workplace?
Protecting peoples’ health and keeping them safe from harm is fundamental to a successful business. Failure to do so can lead to prosecution, reputation damage, poor productivity and ultimately – financial losses. Having good health and safety policies and procedures in place ensures that companies can avoid the issues mentioned above.
The task of ensuring that an organisation follows proper health and safety protocol is a big one. So, who is actually responsible for health and safety? Well, the easiest way to answer that, is that no single person could be entirely responsible. Instead, it is up to each and every employee, as well as the employer, to keep the workplaces safe – it is a shared responsibility.
What health and safety responsibilities does the employer have?
Of course, it should be said that those within the business will have different levels of responsibility. Employers have specific duties for health and safety in the workplace. They are responsible for the employees and others who they may come in to contact with in the course of their work such as contractors, partners, customers and visitors. Employers must put into place measures to protect the health and safety of employees and others. Employees also have duties under health and safety law which we will look at in more detail later.
Below are some of the things employers should do to ensure that compliant health and safety standards are maintained in the workplace:
- Consult employees about health and safety. This is important as employees often are keenly aware of the hazards that they might encounter on a daily basis and will understand what controls are needed to reduce risk.
- Write a health and safety policy. This is a legal requirement for any company with more than 5 employees and it is a statement of intent from the business – we will look after your health and safety.
- Carry out risk assessments. The employer must identify hazards and implement measures to eliminate and reduce the risk of the hazards materialising to as low as is reasonably practicable. The risk assessments should be communicated to those who may be harmed and reviewed regularly.
- Display the health and safety law poster. This poster contains important information about health and safety requirements and responsibilities. It should be displayed in an area where it is visible to everyone. If that is not possible, flyers should be created containing the same important information.
- Only work with like-minded safe businesses. Working with others can increase risk and businesses should only engage with other parties that comply with health and safety legislation otherwise employees could be put at risk.
- Provide effective health and safety training for staff. Giving employees the proper training on health and safety means that they will recognise and be able to prevent harm. Employers should provide their staff with health and safety refresher training as well.
- Provide safety equipment and personal protective equipment. Any equipment that has been identified in the risk assessments and is necessary to protect the health and safety of employees should be provided by the employer.
What health and safety responsibilities does the employee have?
As mentioned above, employees also have health and safety responsibilities. 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 must co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their legal requirements ..”
Listed below are some of the things employees should do:
- Follow health and safety training. Whereas employers are responsible for providing this training, it is the employees that must adhere to it. The training is often specific to the hazards that staff members might face on a daily basis and it is crucial that the guidance given to keep the employee safe is adhered to continuously.
- Keep up to date with health and safety legislation and information. The majority of employers will keep their employees up to date with relevant information. However, it is recommended that employees stay abreast of company policies and procedures and other relevant information from sources such as the HSE.
- Report unsafe acts and conditions. Competent employees will be able to spot hazards and risks. They should report anything untoward to their employer and work with them to find solutions to any issues and also to look for opportunities for improvement.
- Work with employers to ensure high standards when it comes to health and safety. Having a safe and happy work environment is a team effort. If employers and employees work together this will help create the best possible working environment that will keep everyone healthy and safe.
Although no one person is responsible for the health and safety of the workplace, it is important to communicate and understand what is required of each person at work. When this is understood by everyone in the company, a safe and happy work environment is much more achievable. Whereas employers have certain responsibilities towards keeping their employees safe, it’s important that employees follow the correct policies and practices so that everyone can share a safe and happy work environment as well. Make sure that YOUR workplace is safe for you and your colleagues!
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