Employees’ Responsibility for Health and Safety – A Quick Guide
Though many people understand that employers have workplace responsibilities in regards to their employees health and safety, far fewer understand that employees also have certain legal obligations they must meet. Here, we take a look at employees responsibility for Health and Safety.
Duty of care
Just like employers have a Duty of Care to their employees, those same employees have a Duty of Care to themselves and others. This Duty of Care is implied in all work contracts and means that employees ‘must exercise reasonable skill and care in [their] relationship with [their] employer and others.’ The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 also legislates on this matter. Building on the previous definition, the legislation adds that the employee must also cooperate with their employer to ensure that they’re able to fulfil their legal responsibilities and ‘must not interfere with or obstruct anything provided in the interests of health and safety at work.’
If an employee fails to meet their health and safety obligations, they can face steep fines and may lose their job. Often, the punishment will represent the severity of the safety breach and the potential or actual consequences. Having been convicted of a health and safety breach, employees are typically fined under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974, or dismissed by failing to fulfil their contractual duties and Duty of Care. However, the employee is only responsible if they have been afforded the proper health and safety training and been made aware of the punishment for non-compliance.
Equipment and protective clothing
Employees also have certain responsibilities when it comes to the equipment and protective clothing aspect of their work. They must not ‘misuse any equipment that is provided for safety purposes.’ These include equipment like fire extinguishers, protective helmets, and safety goggles.
Working with the employer
Finally, employees also have a responsibility to work with their employer to ensure that the workplace is as safe as possible and that the employer can fully discharge their duties under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This most obviously manifests itself in the responsibility employees have to ‘follow instructions from the employer on health and safety matters and attend relevant health and safety training’ This means that employees must allow their employers to fulfil their health and safety obligation to provide accurate workplace information and then follow it. On top of this, employees must report any defects, hazards, or unsafe working practices to their employer, as soon as they see them.
While employees don’t have anywhere near as many legal responsibilities as their employers, they do need to understand that there are a number of obligations they must carry out. Essentially, these can be broken down into three types of obligation;
- To work with the required skill and care, so as to not endanger others.
- Use equipment and safety equipment for their intended purposes – do not misuse them in any way.
- Attend all required health and safety training, do not obstruct an employer’s ability to deliver essential health and safety training, and report any dangerous working practices or situations immediately.