Whose responsibility is health and safety in the workplace – employer or employee?

In 1974 the landmark Health and Safety at Work Act was passed, helping to ensure that the UK’s workplaces would become safer. Employers were no longer able to disregard the safety of their workforce. They were made to carry out risk assessments and put measures in place to reasonably reduce the chances of injuries occurring in the workplace.

If an employer doesn’t carry out his or her responsibilities and injury occurs they may find themselves on the wrong end of a compensation claim. However, the Health and Safety at Work Act also makes it clear that employees have a responsibility to make sure they work safely and reduce any risk of injury to themselves or other people.

So for example, if your employer provides you with safety goggles and explains to you why it’s important that you wear them, you should make sure you wear them. If you choose not to wear the goggles and end up with hydrochloric acid in your eye it is clear that the employer has met their responsibility but you have not met yours.

An employee may sometimes come across something in the workplace that may be dangerous. In these cases it is their responsibility to make this known to their employer, so that a risk assessment can be carried out and a safe working environment can be maintained. If you become ill or injured you must tell your employer – carrying on with your job may put you at further risk.

Employees fully expect, and rightly so, that the place in which they work is free from danger and that everything has been done to reduce the risk of injuries. However, they shouldn’t ignore their own role in maintaining health and safety in the workplace. Only by taking joint responsibility can workplaces be safe places.

Forklift accidents are fairly common in warehouses where not many high visibility jackets are used.

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