An essential component in any employer’s duty to its staff is to ensure that health and safety requirements are met at all times.

Although this may sound simple, there are several criteria that must be adhered to in order to ensure that staff safety is not being compromised, and to guarantee the wider wellbeing of workers.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the responsibilities of every employer and the rights of its workers.

By following this, businesses can help to safeguard employee wellbeing and conform with the law, ensuring that staff have a comfortable working environment, and support wider business benefits such as improved morale, productivity and staff retention.

Employee rights

Employee rights form the main basis of all health and safety legislation and cover many criteria, including some fundamental rights.

All workers have the right to work in places where all risks to health and safety are properly controlled, and are entitled to stop working and leave the area if they think they are in danger.

Employers have a responsibility to consult staff on all matters related to health and safety at work, with workers required to inform their employer about health and safety issues or concerns. Employees also have the right to contact the HSE or a local authority with complete impartiality if concerns are not acknowledged or dealt with.

All workers are entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes if working for more than six hours at a time and to an annual period of paid leave, as well as basic amenities such as sufficient toilets, washing facilities, drinking water and adequate first aid facilities.

Employer responsibilities

Every organisation is required to safeguard the wellbeing of its staff, which means keeping an open dialogue with workers, listening to feedback and making improvements where required or advisable.

All employers are duty bound to tell workers how to do their job safely and in a way that they can understand, as well as telling them about the risks to health and safety from current or proposed working practices. Employers are also required to tell their staff exactly how any risks will be controlled and who is responsible for this, as well as consulting and working with health and safety representatives and employees to protect everyone from harm and providing instruction on how to get first aid treatment and what to do in an emergency.

Several measures must also be provided to staff free of charge to ensure they are capable of safeguarding the wellbeing of themselves and their colleagues, including basic training that shows workers how to do their job safely. Companies must also supply any equipment and protection necessary for work to be carried out, including protective clothing, boots, eye and ear protection, gloves and masks, and also to ensure its upkeep.
In cases where employees are at risk of ill health due to the nature of their work, health checks must also be provided by the employer free of charge.

Employee duties

Although employers are largely responsible for the provision of the above, employees still have a duty to conform with certain legislation and are responsible for their own safety to an extent – something that must be communicated to all staff.
Staff are duty bound to take care of their own health and safety and that of people who may be affected by what they do, and to co-operate with others on health and safety and avoid interfering with or misusing anything provided to them for their welfare.
Employees are also required to follow all training they have received when using any work items that the employer has provided them with, to ensure their safety.

Necessary paperwork

Employer health and safety responsibilities also extend to documentation and signage displayed in the workplace, which is integral to maintaining staff wellbeing.
All staff must be able to view the HSE’s health and safety law poster, which needs to be displayed in a prominent position, or as an alternative, employers can provide each worker with a pocket card equivalent, both of which must have contact details for the necessary health and safety representative.
Companies must also display the organisation’s health and safety policy statement, as well as an up-to-date Employers Liability certificate.

Further measures

These criteria together form a key part of a company’s duties toward their employees, although there is far more that organisations can do to boost staff wellbeing and bring about an improvement in morale and productivity. Addressing the office environment is a good place to start; take a look at our blog which suggests some ways to help keep the office environment a healthier place.
A commitment to health and safety could also be complemented by the introduction of a health care cash plan for employees, which could result in a healthier, more productive workforce.
To find out more about Sovereign Health Care and how a health care cash plan could benefit the health and wellbeing of your employees and your business, click here.

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