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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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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