The workplace is usually a potential high risk environment in terms of health and safety. But what does health and safety at the workplace mean? In a nutshell, health and safety deals with the protection of workers and other stakeholders through ensuring that the workplace is healthy, safe and that workers’ welfare is taken care of well (Workplace health and safety n.d.).
As such, governments across the world have developed laws to not only protect employees from accidents and other related hazards while at work, but also ensure that workers’ welfare is well managed. While employers have the greatest responsibility for guaranteeing occupational health and safety, employees equally have an important role to play in ensuring that the workplace is safe, healthy and secure. This paper, therefore, identifies and discusses employer and employee responsibilities for health, safety and security.
Every employer has a duty to ensure that the workplace is healthy, safe and secure (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.). This duty imposes a number of responsibilities on employers as discussed below.
Employers must ensure that the workplace is free from serious hazards. This can be achieved by undertaking a risk assessment, which involves identification of potential risks and development of adequate measures to mitigate them (Health and Safety Executives 2009). A risk assessment should be undertaken by a health and safety expert.
In most cases, findings of the risk assessment are documented in a report, which culminates into a written occupational health and safety policy. However, it is not necessary to document the assessment for an organisation with less than five employees (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.). Nevertheless, employers must come up with adequate measures to control the identified risks
It is also the duty of employers to inform workers about the identified potential risks and the precaution measures put in place (Health and Safety Executives 2009). Employers are expected to provide adequate insurance cover for the workers, especially those working in high risk areas.
A healthy and secure workplace also requires employers to ensure proper maintenance of machines and protective devices in order to avoid accidents arising from faults in machines and protective devices. In addition, employers are expected to set up adequate emergency plans and provide first aid facilities for use in case of emergencies.
Further, employers have a responsibility to ensure consistent and reliable occupational behaviour among employees (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.). Employers should supervise and instruct employees accordingly when performing their duties to ensure that employees’ occupational behaviour does not pose potential risk to their health and safety.
It is the duty of the employer to ensure that employees pay close attention to instructions when operating machines and other related equipment (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.). To ensure effective supervision, employers must only appoint competent people as supervisors. Supervisors should be people who not only possess the academic qualifications, but are also well versed with occupational health and safety requirements as well as the potential risks in the workplace.
Moreover, employers are expected to train employees on the relevant hazard prevention measures. Employers should take it as their responsibility to train employees on safety requirements in the workplace to ensure that workers do not ignorantly expose themselves to hazards while performing duties (Health and Safety Executives 2009). Similarly, employers should properly familiarise new employees or visitors with the operations of the workplace environment, including potential dangers and the necessary precautions.
Likewise, employers must ensure strict adherence to occupational health and safety standards. Things such as temperature control, lighting, ventilation, toilet and rest facilities must be provided and should meet health and safety requirements (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.). It is the duty of employers to ensure that employees are aware of their health and safety rights as well as responsibilities.
Employers should thus avail copies of the relevant laws to their workers and provide the necessary explanations where necessary. Similarly, employers should develop and document health and safety rules to be followed by employees while performing duties (Employers’ health and safety responsibilities n.d.).
Just like employers, employees also have a duty to ensure that the workplace is healthy, safe and secure. Hence, employees have the following four critical responsibilities.
First, employees must carefully follow instructions when operating machines and equipment. As such, employees should use the knowledge acquired through training and perform duties in accordance with instructions given by employers. The employer has a responsibility to provide the relevant personal protective equipment and clothing and give instructions on their usage.
However, it is the duty of employees to always follow the instructions and use the relevant protective gears when performing duties (Health and Safety Executives 2013). Besides, it is the duty of employees to ensure that safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, respirators and goggles are not misused or intentionally damaged (Employee and employer WHS rights and responsibilities 2014).
Second, an employee must not only be responsible for his/her health and safety, but also for the health and safety of other workers as well (Health and Safety Executives 2013). It is the responsibility of an employee to take the necessary precautions when performing duties and to promptly report hazards and dangers whenever noticed (‘Employee rights and responsibilities’, 2013). Employees should always be on the lookout and report any potential dangers to the employers.
An employee should thus be the employer’s key informant in matters of health, safety and security. Besides, employees should always discuss the arising concerns about health, safety and security with their employers (‘Employee rights and responsibilities’, 2013). Employees have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Hence, employees should inform employers whenever they feel that this right is at risk. Employees should never take risks with their health and safety at work.
Third, employees are expected to minimise accidents resulting from employee carelessness or acts of omissions by closely following the company’s occupational health and safety policy and rules when performing duties.
Last, employees must be cooperative in matters of health, safety and security (Health and Safety Executives 2013). It is the duty of employees to cooperate with employers to ensure that health and safety issues are well addressed and that equipment provided by employers is properly used and well maintained. Employees should also be willing to assist whenever called upon to handle health and safety issues.
Based on the discussion in this paper, it is clear that ensuring occupational health and safety is largely a responsibility of the employer, but employees also have a role to play. Employers are not only expected to ensure that the workplace is safe and secure, but must also train workers on how to make their work environment safe, healthy and secure. On the other hand, employees are expected to not only exercise care when performing duties, but also cooperate and inform employers of potential hazards.
Employee and employer WHS rights and responsibilities 2014. Web.
‘Employee rights and responsibilities: the internal constituencies of business’ 2013, in L Newton (ed.), Business ethics in the social context: law, profits, and the evolving moral practices of business, Springer, Berlin, pp. 25-61.
Health and Safety Executives 2009, Health and safety law: what you need to know. Web.
Health and Safety Executives 2013, Your health your safety: a brief guide for workers. Web.