Workplace health and safety is a key responsibility for all employers. Essentially, workplace health and safety refers to minimising any hazards and risks to create a safe environment for employees, and anyone visiting the premises. 

This obligation isn’t limited to physical premises. Even if your employees work from home, your health and safety obligations still apply. 

As an employer, you will likely be held responsible if someone gets hurt at work, especially if the incident was preventable. However, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re doing everything possible to create a safe environment. 

We’ll discuss this in more detail in this article. More specifically, we’ll cover the following:  

  • Who is responsible for workplace health and safety 
  • The role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 
  • Importance of health and safety in the workplace
  • Conducting training 
  • Legislation employers need to be compliant with 
  • Health and safety practices when employees work remotely 

Who Is Responsible For Health And Safety In The Workplace?

Employers are responsible for the health and safety of everyone in the workplace, including their employees and anyone else that enters the premises, such as customers or associates. 

Every employee also has a duty to abide by workplace health and safety obligations to ensure their actions do not bring harm to another person. 

Employers, however, have a higher set of responsibilities to make sure the working environment is a safe one. Therefore, it’s important for all employers to be aware of these duties and make sure they are doing everything in their power to abide by them. Workplace health and safety is one of the most important aspects of having a well functioning work environment, so keep reading to find out more. 

What Is The HSE?

The HSE is the Health and Safety Executive. In the UK, the HSE is the main regulatory body for workplace health and safety. The HSE provides information regarding the compliance of workplace health and safety laws. 

The HSE determines an employers health and safety obligations to include: 

  • Talking to employees about workplace health and safety (having open communication can allow employees to bring forward any concerns) 
  • Responding appropriately when employees address their concerns 
  • Assessing and combatting risks
  • Informing employees of  any potential hazards in the workplace 
  • Displaying the health and safety law poster so employees can be aware and reminded of their rights 

If you would like more information, check out the Health and Safety Regulation Guide provided by the HSE. 

Why is Health And Safety Important In The Workplace?

As an employer, you want your employees and anyone that comes into contact with your business to be safe. Not only is it an employer’s duty under the law to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees, but it’s also good business practice. 

A business’ reputation can really suffer if it’s been known to lack care for its employees and customers. Additionally, having good health and safety regulations makes your workplace more efficient and productive when potential hazards are not an issue. 

How Do I Conduct Workplace Health And Safety Training?

Training means to prepare all employees in managing, avoiding or countering any harm they may come across. Workplace health and safety training is heavily influenced by the type of industry a workplace falls under and the specific kinds of risks a premises may be subject to. 

Therefore, the kind of training you decide to initiate as an employer will differentiate you from other businesses. 

Training can occur during an employee’s induction, however, some places of employment choose to do refresher courses every few months to guarantee their employees are well prepared. 

Example
Gary runs a hiking tour. He has four employees that work for him and provide tours for their clients on a particular trail. 

In order to make sure his employees are well-trained and prepared for all situations, Gary puts them through a hiking course that educates them in case they come across any animals, insects or plants that can be dangerous. 

Along with this, all his employees receive first aid training, first aid kits, COVID-19 training and additional supplies they will likely need when they are leading tours. 

Workplaces are also sometimes required to have a person dedicated to overseeing workplace health and safety. 

The health and safety representative of a workplace is in charge of seeing that all practices are safe, the physical environment is free of hazards and all employees at every level are receiving adequate training to keep themselves safe. 

What Law Regulates Health And Safety In The Workplace?

Criminal and civil law regulate health and safety regulations in the workplace. This basically means that if an employer is found to have endangered the employees’ wellbeing in any way, they can be prosecuted under both criminal and civil penalties. 

Naturally, this will depend on the kind of offence that has occurred. The main legislation regulating safe work practices is the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974

Health And Safety At Work Act 1974

When it comes to understanding employer health and safety obligations, the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974 is a primary regulation that should always be complied with. The legislation covers matters regarding: 

  • Training staff
  • Risk assessment 
  • Enforcement and inspections
  • Executive powers
  • General duties of employer and employees 
  • Offences 

If you have any questions regarding your obligations under the legislation, feel free to contact us for a chat!  

What Are My Employer Obligations?

Employer obligations extend beyond health and safety to a number of areas. Along with complaining about health and safety regulations, it’s important to ensure you are fulfilling duties towards your employees in other areas as well. 

We’ve summarised some of the main ones below.  

Employee Entitlements

Whether your employees are being paid an hourly wage or a salary, it’s your duty as an employer to ensure they are being paid in accordance with legal standards

This means inclides adhering to the minimum wage requirements, providing employees with any awards they are entitled to as well as paying for overtime or public holiday rates. 

Days Off   

It’s important to ensure that all employees are working appropriate shifts.  Overextending shifts and having an individual work unreasonable hours without enough breaks in between is not only illegal, but also dangerous to the wellbeing of that employee. 

As an employer, it is your duty to ensure employees have adequate breaks between shifts and an appropriate amount of days off. Depending on the type of employment (part time, casual, permanent) employees will also be entitled to a certain amount of leave. 

My Employees Work From Home: What Are My Safety Obligations?

If your employees work remotely, then workplace health and safety still applies. In this case, it will be administered differently. 

Remote health and safety practices can look like:

  • Making sure all employees have the correct ‘work from home’ (WFH) equipment
  • All virtual communication channels between employees being regulated and professional conduct enforced
  • Giving employees the ability to maintain regular communication with the head office to talk about any issues
  • Ensuring employees can draw a fair balance between work and personal life, as this is a common challenge with WFH arrangements
  • Sending or reimbursing employees for the correct office equipment 

Key Takeaways

Workplace health and safety is a crucial aspect of any employer’s job. Ensuring the wellbeing of employees and visitors alike needs a serious and consistent approach. 

However, if you take reasonable steps to avoid any potential harm or risks, then you can minimise the possibility of danger or injuries. 

To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • Every member of the workplace has a duty to maintain a safe working environment, however, it’s up to employers to establish everyone’s responsibilities and create a safe environment 
  • The HSE is the main regulatory body for workplace health and safety/ They mainly enforce the provisions listed in the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974
  • Staff training is important and depends on the industry and specific requirements of your business 
  • Health and safety measures are required to be extended to employees that work from home
  • Employers multiple other obligations they must comply with, such as leave, entitlements and minimum wage 

If you would like a consultation on work health and safety, you can reach us at 08081347754 or [email protected] for a free, no-obligations chat.

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