Employees working at computers, a chef chopping vegetables and children writing at school, all with first aid boxes nearby

Knowing your rights and responsibilities as an employee is incredibly important, especially when it comes to health and safety. In 2019/20, 1.6 million working people suffered from a work-related illness in Great Britain (HSE), but who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

Health and Safety Rights as an Employee

All employees have the right to work in an environment in which all health and safety risks are managed and controlled to prevent them from getting hurt or ill through work.

What are your health and safety rights in the workplace?


As an employee, it is your right to have access to adequate first aid facilities, suitable and sufficient toilets, washing facilities and drinking water. This includes having the right number of first aid kits and qualified first aiders present, in relation to the number of staff and level of risk at a workplace.


You also have the right to an annual period of paid leave and an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes, when you work for more than six hours at a time.


You have the right to stop working, or leave an area of work, at any time if you feel that you are at risk of any danger while working. You should always feel safe whilst at work and can refuse to work on health and safety grounds.


You have the right to be consulted by your employer on matters relating to health and safety.


It is also 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 if you still have these health and safety concerns. You cannot get into trouble for reporting health and safety concerns.


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


employers take responsibility for health & safety by providing risk assessments, clarity, training, good facilities and insuranceEmployer responsibilities

Your employer has primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace; they must decide what risks there are to your health and safety, and they must implement ways of mitigating or eliminating these risks. This should be done in the form of a risk assessment.

Employers must explain how risks to you are being controlled and who is responsible for controlling these risks. As previously mentioned, employers must consult with health and safety representatives, as well as all employees, regarding how to protect everyone in the workplace from anything that they have assessed as a potential risk.

Employers must also complete assessments of the workplace, considering how many people work there and the nature of the work taking place. These must then be used to calculate the required amount of first aid facilities, toilets, washing facilities and drinking water.

In addition to these facilities, employers must provide, free of charge, any health and safety training that you need to do your job, as well as equipment and protective clothing to ensure you are properly looked after and protected.

Employers are responsible for reporting any injuries, diseases, dangerous incidents and facilities to the HSE. They must hold appropriate insurance to cover you in case of illness or injury through work. It is important that the insurance certificate is displayed and easily visible and accessible to all employees, for example in a frequently used communal area.



poster defines responsibilities of employees and employers under health & safety law and what to do if there is a problem

By law, all employers must display Health and Safety Law information in a visible location. This can take the form of a poster, displayed in a prominent location that can be accessed by all staff. In workplaces with multiple locations, each will require their own poster. Alternatively, a Health and Safety Law leaflet can be provided to all staff members.

In 2009, the HSE introduced an updated, simpler version of the Health and Safety Law poster. All employers should have been displaying this version of the poster since 2014. The Health and Safety Law poster can be purchased from Safety First Aid.


Employees’ Health and Safety Responsibilities

The Health and Safety at Work Act makes it clear that employees 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.

employees take responsibility for health & safety by following training, cooperating, and speaking up if they notice a problem

693,000 injuries occurred at work in 2019/20 in Great Britain, according to the Labour Force Survey (HSE). This shows just how important it is for employees to look out for each other in the workplace. There are three main responsibilities of the employee in health and safety:

  • Follow all training that has been given to you when using any work items with which your employer has provided you. All equipment should be used safely to minimise risk to yourself and your colleagues. This includes the correct use of any personal protective equipment, in accordance with training or instructions.
  • Take reasonable care of your own and other people’s health and safety in the workplace, ensuring that risk to everyone is minimised. Others may be affected by what you do or don’t do, so it is crucial to always be aware of reducing any potential risks to health and safety. This includes the safe storage of your possessions, arrangements for the clean-up of spillages, and vigilance at all times to remove or report any hazards.
  • Tell your employer, supervisor or health and safety representative if you think that the work you are undertaking is putting anyone’s health at risk. This includes if there are inadequate precautions in place. Everyone should feel comfortable to report any concerns that they have regarding health and safety in the workplace.



Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility and it is essential that both you and your employers are aware of the role that you play in this every day. You have the right to report anything that you think may be of risk to yourself or your colleagues to your employer 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 who become injured or ill.

Make sure you are working in a healthy and safe environment. Ensure you have the correct health and safety products in your workplace and the right training to support you and your colleagues.

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