You’re at work in the office and you trip over a cable running from one room to another and you injure your wrist, or you work in a restaurant and you slip on water from a leaking ice machine - that’s been broken for weeks. Accidents from slips, trips, and falls are the most common workplace accident, costing companies thousands to millions in compensation. What happens when accidents like these happen in the workplace? Who is responsible for safety in the workplace in the first instance?
According to the Health and Safety Executive, employers are responsible for health and safety management at work. If you are a lone worker or work from home, you’re also responsible for yourself too.
But for those who work in a traditional office environment or hospitality, restaurant, catering or retail, how do you ensure you’re safe at work and that your employer is taking full responsibility?
Health and Safety Risk Assessments and Implementation
When an employer has over five employees, that employer must create a health and safety policy, according to the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. That policy states that where it’s reasonably possible, employers need to take measures to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees.
Employers must conduct a risk assessment, and figure out what the risks of the work environment are. The risks must be documented along with notes on how the employer will ensure that the work environment is safe. So, for a restaurant, for example, providing slip-resistant flooring, slip-resistant mats, slip-resistant shoes, and safe clothing (i.e. clothing that won’t catch fire for chefs) will ensure safety.
On the other hand, employers must provide and maintain any safety equipment; they must provide a safe working environment; they must ensure that hazardous materials are used, stored, handled, and transported correctly and safely; and they must provide training on how to stay safe in the work environment, ensuring that all staff understand the instructions in their written health and safety policy and documented risk assessment.
Do You Have An Appointed Safety Manager?
Each workplace should have a team or specific person (depending on the size of the company or place of work) who is responsible for the health and safety at work. Employees should report any safety breaches to that person to get them remedied. For example, if equipment is broken or if conditions have become hazardous. It will then be that person’s duty to fix the problem, to cordon off the area until it can be remedied, or to come up with another solution.
Employers also have a legal duty under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations (HSIER) to display a poster outlining British health and safety law. The poster must be prominently displayed, and approved.
If any employees think that their employer is exposing them to undue risks or isn’t carrying out legal responsibilities regarding health and safety, if the issue has been brought to the attention of the employer, and nothing has been done, the employee can make a formal complaint to the HSE.
From an employer perspective, it’s much, much cheaper to consider ways to keep employees safe than it is to pay out compensation for injuries in which you (the employer) have been found negligent.
Once your employer has provided a safe work environment, each individual also has a personal responsibility to act responsibly and safely in that work environment. For example, it would not be a smart decision to grab a heavy item from the top of the pantry shelf using a chair with wheels. Employers do not have to protect against unforeseen circumstances, so if you have an accident at work that is your fault - where you yourself have been negligent about your own safety - from a legal perspective, your employer is no longer responsible.
How can employers protect their employees from slips, trips, and falls?
By investing in slip-resistant footwear, you can protect your employees from the most common workplace accidents, fulfilling one essential duty of providing a safe working environment. SHOES FOR CREWS (EUROPE)’s shoes surpass the minimum ISO standard for slip-resistance. We are proud to share our results - read the full report below!