Who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace – a guide for employees


Do you know what your health and safety responsibilities in the workplace are?

Do you know what you have the right to be provided with by your employer? 

In 2017/18 there were 1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness in Great Britain and 555,000 non-fatal injuries.

Health and safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility. While employers have primary responsibility for all health and safety matters, all employees play a crucial role in preventing accidents and work-related illness. 

What are your health and safety rights in the workplace?

All employees have the right to work in a place where risks to health and safety are adequately controlled in order to prevent you from becoming injured or ill while performing your duties. It is your right, as an employee, to have access to adequate first aid facilities, suitable and sufficient toilets, washing facilities and drinking water. This can include having the right number of first aid kits and qualified first aiders in relation to the number of staff at a company. You must also be provided with any personal protective equipment (PPE) which is necessary for you to safely perform your job.
You also have the right to stop working at any time and to leave an area if you feel that you are at risk whilst in the workplace. All employees should feel safe at all times whilst at work.
Furthermore, it is your right to inform your employer of any health and safety concerns that you might have and to escalate this by contacting the HSE or your local authority these health and safety concerns are not addressed – you cannot get in to trouble for this. 
All employees are entitled to a rest break of a minimum length of 20 minutes if you work for more than six hours at a time. You are also entitled to an annual period of paid leave.

You, as an employee, have the right to join a trade union and become a safety representative. A safety representative’s role includes investigating hazards or dangerous occurrences, attending safety committees, representing employees in discussions with their employers in regards to health, safety and welfare. Safety representatives have the right to paid time off work for training and carrying out functions related to the safety representative role.

What are your employer’s responsibilities for Health and Safety in the workplace?

Your employer has primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace. This means they must decide what risks there are to your health and safety and implement ways of mitigating against or completely eliminating these risks – this should take the form of a risk assessment. 

Employers must explain how risks to you are being controlled and who the responsibility for controlling these risks belongs to. Employers are responsible for consulting with health and safety representatives and all employees regarding protecting everyone in the workplace from harm. This means that your employer must consult with you regarding how to protect you from anything that they have assessed as a potential risk to you in the workplace.

Employers must provide you with adequate first aid facilities, toilets, washing facilities and drinking water, the number of these should be calculated by doing assessments of the workplace and will vary depending on the number of staff at the company and the nature of the work taking place there.

Your employer must also provide you with the free health and safety training you need to do your job, as well as providing you with equipment and protective clothing to ensure you are properly looked after and protected. Employers are responsible for reporting any injuries, diseases, dangerous incidents and fatalities to the HSE. Employers must hold appropriate insurance to cover you in case of illness or injury through work, they must also display the insurance certificate where it can be easily visible by all employees. This should be in a frequently used communal area, to ensure all employees have access to it. 

What is your responsibility for health and safety as an employee?

As an employee you also have responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace. All employees must work together in order to create a safe working environment. You should take responsibility for your actions within the workplace and the implications they can have for you, your colleagues and your environment. According to the Labour Force Survey, there were 555,000 injuries to employees in 2017/18. This figure demonstrates just how important it is for employees to look out for each other's safety in the workplace.

As an employee you have certain stated responsibilities. These include:
- Following all training that has been given to you when using any work items your employer has provided you with. This ensures that all equipment is used safely in order to minimise risk to yourself and your colleagues and also includes the correct use of any personal protective equipment, in accordance with training or instructions.

- Take reasonable care of your own and other peoples' health and safety in the workplace ensuring that risk to everyone is minimised. Others may be affected by you actions so it's important to be aware of potential risks to health and safety and take steps to reduce these at all times. This can include the safe storage of your possessions, arranging for the clean-up of spillages and being vigilant at all times to remove or report any hazards. 

- Co-operate with your employer's arrangements for ensuring health and safety in the workplace at all times.

- Tell your employer, supervisor or health and safety representative if you think unsafe working conditions or processes are putting anyone’s health and safety at risk. Everyone should feel comfortable to report any concerns that they have regarding health and safety in the workplace.

Do you have a Health and Safety Law poster displayed in your workplace?

By law, all employers must display Health and Safety Law information in a visible location. This can take the form of either a poster displayed in a prominent location that can be accessed by all staff (often multiple locations within one workplace will require a poster), or a Health and Safety Law leaflet which needs to be provided to all staff members.

In 2009, the HSE introduced an updated, simpler version of the Health & Safety Law Poster. In order to minimise the impact on organisations, the HSE provided a five year transition period meaning that employers had until 5th April 2014 to replace the poster or leaflets with the new version.

The Health and Safety Law poster can be purchased from Safety First Aid. 

In summary

Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is crucial that both you and your employers are aware of the role that you play in this every day. You have the right to report to your employer anything that you think may be of risk to yourself or your colleagues and are entitled to escalate this to the HSE if needed. You have rights within the workplace that your employer must adhere to but also you have responsibilities to your employer and colleagues. It is extremely important that everyone is aware of their role in health and safety in the workplace in order to reduce the number of people that become injured or ill.


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