Health and Safety Responsibilities of Employees

You might be trying to work out who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace, and the short answer is: everyone! Even though the primary legal responsibility is in the hands of the employer, all employees have their part to play. Regardless of your employment or contractual arrangement, you have a common law duty of care for workplace safety. If you are an employer, you will want to share the relevant information with to make sure your team is working together to make your workplace thrive.

This post will help you understand employees responsibilities for health and safety.

Why are employees responsible for health and safety?

You might think that it is pretty much common sense for anyone, in any job, to be mindful to avoid accidents and engage in safe and healthy practices. It’s in everyone’s interests, after all, to create a safe working culture of mutual trust.

If you are an employer, you can’t just depend on good will and hope for the best. It can sometimes be easy for people to forget about collective responsibility, and expect someone else to deal with things. If health and safety breach is committed, prosecutors tend to look towards people with ‘greater authority’ and decision-making powers - managers and officers and company directors. If it turns out that an unsafe practice occurred under your watch, with your consent or connivance (i.e. you were aware of the circumstances and risk, but made no intervention), you can be prosecuted for breaching your duty of care. It’s just not worth turning a blind eye when health and safety is concerned!

Yes, the boss is ultimately in charge and legally responsible for their employees, but that doesn’t let everyone else off the hook. If an employee is found to be negligent or willfully engaging in dangerous practices, they can be found personally liable and criminally prosecuted. As an employee, you want to look out for your own safety, and that of your colleagues, and you don’t want to risk prosecution or losing your job. On a more positive note, if you prove yourself to be responsible and diligent when it comes to health and safety, your performance, and CV, will stand out to prospective employers!

 

What are the responsibilities of employees?

You could read the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974, but unless you love reading complex law I don’t recommend it. I’ve made it simple for you, and summarised the responsibilities below. 

In basic terms if you are an employer or an employee, you need to have a clear idea of the expectations when it comes to health and safety. All workers have rights, as well as responsibilities, and making sure that everyone is aware of this will help you develop a strong foundation of clear communication and cooperation between everyone in your organisation. 

As an employee, you can expect your employer to have measures in place to assess, monitor, and control risk in your workplace, to provide health and safety equipment and appropriate training and information. For your wellbeing, you have the right to rest breaks and time off, and you also have the right to stop or refuse work if it is dangerous, and complain without fear of being disciplined. 

You also have various responsibilities that you need to remember, including:

  • Taking care of your own health and safety, and that of others
  • Not putting anyone at risk through what you do, or neglect to do
  • Cooperating with your employer and those your work with, to comply with health and safety laws and regulations
  • Participate in training offered by your employer
  • Follow safety procedures and instructions
  • Handling machinery, equipment and substances in line with training
  • Reporting on any medications that make you drowsy, affecting your ability to operate machinery
  • Not deliberately interfering or misusing equipment or safety measures
  • Not being under the influence of an intoxicant that could affect your ability to work safely
  • Report any shortcomings in, or concerns about, health and safety arrangements
  • Report any defects in machinery, equipment, or working systems that present danger.

 

Your responsibilities are directly connected to your rights. Everyone has a right to work in a safe and health environment, and to feel confident that everyone is looking out for each other’s best interests. Whatever else your job involves, this is part of your job.

How to make sure that employees are responsible for health and safety

If you are an employer, you have a responsibility to look after your workforce, and part of that responsibility is making sure that they are looking after themselves and each other, as well. Communication is the key here. Make sure your staff feel that they are part of a team, and that you are supporting them in their best practice. Set a good example in the measures and policies you put in place, and provide clear information and training to help everyone achieve their potential. I would recommend reading INDG 450 Your health, your safety A brief guide for workers from the HSE. It’s simple and gives you a basic overview of employee responsibilities.  

If you are an employee, you should try to get involved with health and safety in your workplace. Be proactive, and don’t hesitate to ask questions and raise concerns about your organization’s health and safety procedures. Your employer has a responsibility to seek representation from employees. That includes feedback from someone who has first-hand experience of the systems of work, as you might see things that managers and supervisors miss. Take opportunities to train and get qualifications, if you can. It will boost your CV, and help you achieve your potential as a confident and reliable member of your team.

 

Health and safety is everyone’s business, and employees have a vital role to play in keeping your organization protected, healthy, and happy. Employees should know their rights, and be encouraged to take an active part in taking care of themselves and each other. Employers should set a good example in their own health and safety management provisions, and provide clear communication, encouragement, and training to nurture a positive approach to health and safety in the workforce. Caring for the wellbeing and safety of those you work with will ensure that your organisation has a healthy working culture of loyalty and trust. 

Are you interested in offering health and safety training to your workforce?  Leave a comment below if you have any questions!

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