Health and safety at work: What are my responsibilities as an employer?

February 14, 2024

If you mention health and safety in the workplace, some people automatically picture hard hats and high-vis jackets. But in reality, health and safety is much more complex than that and, thanks to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, is a legal requirement for employers within all industries and places of work – not just those in manual labour roles (which some still incorrectly assume!).

Complying with such laws is crucial in not only avoiding costly fines and penalties, but fostering a culture of employee care and safety, too. Both, in turn, help to strengthen and protect your organisation’s brand and reputation and can positively influence employee retention rates.

With workplace health and safety being an area of HR that most definitely shouldn’t be overlooked, this blog post highlights the responsibilities of an employer – whether your team is office-based, home-based, or spends their days in a manual working environment.

Table of Contents

Develop a clear, comprehensive health and safety at work policy

Every organisation is required, by law, to have a policy for managing health and safety – and for any employer with five or more employees, this policy must be written down.  As a minimum, the policy should cover three main areas; what you intend to do, who will do it, and how it will be done.

A comprehensive policy supports the wellbeing of employees and visitors in any organisation and should include a policy statement, an outline of responsibilities, an up-to-date risk assessment, your emergency procedure, any training initiatives, communication channels to be used, incident reporting and investigation processes, and your plans for continuous improvement and reviews.

Provide a safe and healthy working environment for employees and visitors

Health and safety initiatives must cover both employees and visitors – basically, anyone who steps foot in your workplace. As such, employers must ensure that all facilities and equipment are safe and suitable for whichever tasks are being carried out.

This includes but is not limited to, providing appropriate ventilation, lighting, sanitation, and access to clean drinking water. Additional areas to consider include providing secure and hazard-free access and exit routes, first aid facilities and training, and fire, gas, and electrical safety and checks.

Assess and manage risks to employees and others

Like a health and safety policy, a risk assessment must be in writing if an employer has five or more employees.  When conducting a risk assessment for your workplace, you should consider various factors that could pose potential hazards to the health and safety of your people.

This should include physical hazards, fire, gas, and electrical safety, manual handling, workstation ergonomics and display screen equipment (DSE), slips, trips and falls, chemicals and hazardous materials, building security, and training requirements.

Of course, the specifics of a risk assessment will vary according to the organisation’s location, layout, and activity.  It’s also important to review and update your risk assessments regularly in case of any changes.

Provide health and safety information, instruction, training, and supervision

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that everyone is informed of hazards, risks, control measures, and what to do in an emergency. The information you provide your team should be accessible and easy to interpret – after all, your employees should be completely clear on what is expected of them.

Health and safety training shouldn’t be a one-time-only task. It’s best practice to keep formal training records and, to ensure your training captures all employees (such as new employees and those changing roles or taking on additional responsibilities), you should set timeframes for refresher training sessions.

Employ a competent person to manage health and safety in your organisation

It may seem obvious, but what some people may not know is that hiring a competent person to manage your workplace health and safety duties is a legal requirement and not just best practice. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether that’s in the form of a health and safety manager, certified health and safety professional, or external consultant.

This person must have the necessary knowledge, skills, experience, and training to effectively manage health and safety matters, along with the capability to identify and assess risks, develop and implement appropriate control measures, and ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

Do you need support with workplace health and safety? Whether it’s an initial audit, document management, or something more involved, our dedicated health and safety team can help. Contact us today for more information.

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