Who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

Who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

Who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace? I hear you ask!

Workplace Health and safety

Workplace health and safety is critical to the wellbeing – both mental and physical – of everybody, including visitors, workers, customers, and managers. Every business should therefore prioritise it. Otherwise, workplace accidents, including workplace-related ill health harm people. Indeed, add to that, they negatively affect employee morale, dent the businesses’ brand reputation, and can cost the business significant amounts of money. Workplace health and safety guidance is therefore necessary for businesses in the UK. It is a big ask, and most people always think the responsibility for it is for other people, except themselves. This raises the question: who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace?

Who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace? I hear you ask!

To put it plainly, who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace? No one person is singly responsible for workplace safety and health. That would be such a big ask! Accordingly, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) obliges everybody within the workplace to play a part. This includes employers and employees, including contractors, all-level staff, and workers.  Whereas these do not necessarily share equal responsibilities, and some have more, all have a part to play.

Health and safety responsibilities for Employers

Legally, employers carry more responsibility for workplace health and safety, according to the HSE. They are responsible for managing health and safety in the workplace and ensuring that employees and indeed everyone in the workplace whom their business potentially affects, are safe from harm.  They should ensure that workplace visitors, customers, contractors, and staff are safe, healthy, and have good wellbeing. The following are the duties employers have to play to meet their legal responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace.

  1. Workplace Risk assessment

Under the health and safety law, employers are responsible for assessing the workplace to identify health and safety hazards, and the risks that they each pose to people in the workplace. They must consider persons at risk and the measures that are necessary to protect such persons from risk. Once they identify and evaluate the risks, employers then need to implement effective safety measures. For high-risk activities, they have to create and effect method statements.  

  1. Consult employees

Employers legally also have the responsibility to consult their employees on matters to do with health and safety in the workplace. This is because often times, employees have useful and first-hand feedback on the workplace hazards that they face when doing their day-to-day tasks.

  1. Suitable choice of contractors

If the employer has a need for contractors to run some business projects, it is their responsibility to choose the most suitable reliable contractors. They must ensure that the contractors have appropriate skills and relevant knowledge for carrying out all of the work efficiently and safely.

  1. Design and put health and safety policies

Every workplace needs health and safety policies. That too is the legal responsibility of employers. Their duty is to put in writing, policies for health and safety. This is a legal requirement applicable to companies or businesses employing more than five workers. 

  1. Communicate Information on Health and safety

Once the employer has drawn up the necessary policies for workplace health and safety, they have the duty to communicate those policies throughout the company. It is their responsibility to ensure that employees, as well as contractors, are aware of the existing health and safety policies. In the event of any changes, they must both effect and communicate them through the same channels.

  1. Provide PPE and safety equipment

Furthermore, employers are responsible for providing all the equipment necessary for health and safety within the workplace. This includes all forms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adequate kits for first aid.

  1. Train staff on workplace health and safety

Employers also have the responsibility to train staff on workplace health and safety. Employees need a certain level of knowledge on health and safety to play their part, which they can only acquire by attending dedicated training.  Even contractors may need additional training, or at the very least, information on workplace health and safety, including RAMS (risk assessments and method statements).

Health and safety responsibilities for Employees

Who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace? Workplace health and safety is not the sole responsibility of company management or owners. Employees too have legal responsibilities. Without their involvement, companies cannot implement health and safety measures effectively. Employees or workers should familiarise with the health and safety policies, and know which precautions they should apply, and when. Among others, the following are legal responsibilities for employees, contractors, or freelancer workers.

  1. Follow and apply Health and safety training

Whereas it is the legal responsibility of the employer to provide training on health and safety within the workplace, it is the inverse responsibility of employees to follow guidelines and apply knowledge and skills from the training that they have received within the workplace.

  1. Implement Policies for health and safety

Besides following health and safety training, employees also have the responsibility to implement precautions that the health and safety policies outline. While training imparts general knowledge on health and safety, these policies often provide information specific to the company or project.

  1. Report safety risks and inadequate precautions

Usually, employees work under risky conditions and are therefore likelier to encounter safety risks within the workplace. Should they come across a health hazard, such as broken electrical equipment, ineffective or broken PPE or indeed notice ineffective precautionary measures, it is their legal responsibility to report these to the employer and also to make colleauges aware .

  1. Understand Health and Safety Policies

Whereas employers have the responsibility to create and communicate health and safety policies within the workplace, employees also have the legal responsibility to digest and understand the information, if they don’t understand they then to to ask it to be explained in laymans terms so that they can understand it. In case of any updates, they must read, familiarise and implement them at once.

  1. Cooperate with employers

Employees should cooperate with employers to help create and maintain a safe workplace. If the employer consults them on safety matters, employees are obliged to give honest opinions.

The Importance of Health and Safety

Every business needs to be responsible for the people that work for them, and this is true for any organisation. There are many things out there that can hurt or injure the people that are in your facility.

This means that you need to be looking out for anything from slippery floors, to dangerous chemicals stored on site, and everything in between ie cracked tiles, broken lights e.t.c. You need to make sure that the people around you are as safe as possible at all times. This means making sure there is a clean environment, not just free of contaminants, but free of hazards as well.

If you don’t take these precautions into account, then somebody could get hurt and it will affect your business in a number of ways. It could lead to lawsuits if somebody gets injured at your company while they’re working with you- which could result in a loss of profits, higher insurance premiums and a loss of contracts.

Duties of an Employer

As an employer, your duties are to ensure the safety and health of employees, provide a safe workplace, pay a fair wage and try to accommodate the needs of your employees. You should also ensure that you have an open dialogue with them about their progress in the company.

Duties of an Employee

As an employee, you have duties too. One is to put in your best efforts at work and complete tasks on time. You should also be fair in how you treat others at work and not abuse any privileges that may come with your role.

 The Importance of Responsible Behaviour for Safety

The personal responsibility to act responsibly is critical for safety in today’s society. People should not be afraid to speak up if someone is doing something that could potentially hurt others. It is important that people take the responsibility of being a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

Some people think that it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to speaking out about what they see as someone doing something wrong or dangerous. When we take this approach, we are taking our responsibility to make sure everyone else stays safe.


So to ask the question again, who is legally responsible for health and safety in the workplace? The answer is everyone, from employers to employees. Their cooperation is critical to a healthy and safe workplace.


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