Home Business & Industry The 5 Areas of Workplace Safety You Might Not Realise You Are Responsible For

The 5 Areas of Workplace Safety You Might Not Realise You Are Responsible For

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Despite health and safety being a huge focus in the modern workplace, there is still much room for improvement, with 35.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury in 2022/23.

Employers carry much of the responsibility when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of their staff and the general public. Conducting thorough risk assessments, providing safety training and issuing the necessary PPE are just a few examples of the roles they must carry out to ensure they’re following strict policies.

But while your employer is responsible for workplace safety, there are areas that you may not realise are actually your responsibility, especially when working from home.

Stewart Galway, senior consultant at Phoenix Health & Safety, has shared the five things you may not realise you are responsible for in the workplace.

1. Reporting any risks to employee safety

A recent study by Phoenix Health and Safety, which surveyed 1,500 participants UK-wide, found that the most commonly broken regulation was not reporting health & safety incidents to superiors, with a third (33%) of respondents admitting that this happens in their workplace.

It can be easy to ignore a hazard that seems small or inconsequential, but it’s your responsibility to report any hazard that poses a risk to yourself or others. This could be a tripping hazard, a wet floor, or even the obstruction of a fire exit. 

Stewart says: “It is vital that employees report a potential hazard in the workplace to the persons responsible, whether that be a supervisor or safety manager, as soon as it has been identified so it can be dealt with immediately. This is your responsibility, and not doing so can result in accidents and injuries that could have been otherwise avoided.”

Paying fines by failing to take care of yourself or others

As an employee, you are responsible for complying with the safety laws and regulations of your workplace. This involves following all policies and procedures to ensure a safe working environment.

Stewart states: “The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 states that it’s the responsibility of employees to protect themselves and others who might be impacted by their work. Failing to do so can result in fines or even prison sentences. For example, an employee was recently fined £2,000 for operating a forklift unsafely, by lifting an apprentice standing on a box to a height. This led to the apprentice breaking their ribs.

“These incidents can be avoided if employees follow the policies in place and are fully familiar with their company’s health and safety guidelines. Every effort should be made to prioritise safety measures and mitigate risks where possible. 

“When employees take responsibility for their safety, it reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. Caring for others means being mindful of their safety, and reporting hazardous conditions. This collaborative approach creates a safer workplace for everyone.”

Fully understanding emergency procedures

It is your employer’s responsibility to run the necessary health and safety training or fire drills, but it is the joint responsibility of all employees to be prepared for the eventuality of an emergency.

Stewart shares: “One of our recent surveys of 1,500 participants, which looked at the public’s understanding of fire safety, found that nearly half (47%) of the respondents would not be able to locate their fire safety assembly point, which is too high a number. 

“Employees should ensure they are aware of important details which will be useful in an emergency, such as knowing where fire exits are located, what the evacuation procedure involves and actively participating in drills. By being prepared and knowing how to respond to various threatening situations, employees can help ensure the safety of themselves and their coworkers.”

Informing your employer of any remote working issues

While working in the office, your employer is largely responsible for ensuring that you’re working in a safe environment, with access to all the equipment you need to do your job safely. However, if you’re a remote worker, it is your responsibility to ensure you’re working safely and flag any issues which could limit your ability to work from home.

Stewart explains: “Whilst your employers still have a degree of responsibility, remote workers must take proactive steps to ensure that their workstation is safe and fit for purpose.

“This could involve making sure you have a comfortable and supportive chair, a suitable surface to work on, or the ability to take important calls in private. These are areas your employer can help you with, if raised as a point of concern. For this reason, you are responsible for notifying your employer if your home working space is unsuitable.”

Taking care of your well-being 

Whether you’re working from home, or in the office, as long as your employer provides you with the appropriate time and facilities, it is always your responsibility to look after your own welfare. 

Stewart states: “Taking regular breaks throughout the workday is important for physical and mental wellbeing. There are strict laws in place around employee breaks depending on hours worked, which your employers are entitled to give you to prevent overexertion.

“Depending on the nature of your job, however, tracking break times might be challenging. Employees are encouraged to communicate with their supervisor if they require a break, or if the timing is at your discretion, it’s essential to ensure you take sufficient time for rest, eating and rehydrating.”

For those who want to improve their understanding of how to promote and ensure safety as employees, consider taking an IOSH working safely course which provides workers at all levels with essential health and safety knowledge. 

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