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Who is responsible for workplace health and safety

Imagine being at work and spotting a puddle on the floor.  Do you walk past it and ignore it – believing it’s someone else’s responsibility – or do you clear it up or report it? If you take the first option, you may walk past without any consequences, but, minutes later, your colleague walks past and slips, causing injury.

Whose responsibility was that? Although the employer will ultimately be responsible, did you not have a duty of care to report the puddle or even clear it up and make it safe for your colleagues?

Who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

This responsibility ultimately belongs with employers, who have a duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers under their control. Whilst employers will always look towards OSH professionals for guidance on all things health and safety, employers are responsible for deciding on direction, resource, systems and everything else that allows for successful application of their guidance.

Why is it the employer's responsibility? 

Employers, their board members or senior leaders are the ‘decision-makers’ within an organisation and therefore held accountable for the decisions they make. The expectation is that employers will adequately support and resource health and safety within the workplace to ensure the safety of its workers.

In terms of safety, a practical example could be an OSH professional proposing a new piece of equipment to better protect workers from hazards. The ‘decision-makers’ will then decide whether to accept the risk as it is or to allocate resource to reduce or eliminate the risk with a new piece of equipment.

What are the employers responsibilities for health and safety

Whilst the employer has overall responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, that does not discount everybody else having a part to play in managing health and safety. All workers, whether they be managers, supervisors or general operatives, are required to meet the expectations of the employer. Expectations can range from attending training and following policy and procedure to reporting accidents, incidents and near misses.

One issue many employers have is the attitude of some workers thinking “it’s not my job”. To overcome such a barrier, should actively promote the concept of health and safety being everybody’s job, to try to establish a culture of everybody working together with the same goal.

What can you do as an employee?

If you would like to gain an overall understanding of health and safety, we have our range of training courses that cover the fundamentals of health and safety.

If you'd like specific guidance on how to return to work after the pandemic, we have free Covid-19 e-learning modules that can provide you with essential knowledge about what needs to be considered when returning to the workplace safely.

Covid e-learning modules

What can you do as an employer or decision-maker?

We have an executive education range of training courses that complement your business needs. They include:

  • Leading Safely – For responsible leaders recognise the importance of safety and health, and you can learn its true value in just five hours.
  • Corporate Governance - Explores ways in which occupational safety and health can be integrated into an organisation’s existing corporate governance arrangements.
  • Corporate Risk Essentials - Equips CEO's, Board Members and Executive Directors to understand, plan and implement a risk management culture as part of your organisation’s governance.

You can also get assistance from an OSH professional, either in-house or via a consultant through the OSCHR Register.

OSCHR register

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