Employer's responsibilities for safety at work

Employers are required to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure employee safety and well-being while working for them. 

This Health Safety and Environment obligation applies even if employees are sent off site or are required to drive for a living, and not just those who work in one place all the time. Obviously employer cannot be responsible for all things that happen; if someone crashes into you then it is fault of the other driver and not your employer. If, however, the car’s brakes fail then that may well be narrowed to the employer.

Employers should ensure that the premises and the equipment that are required to use are safe and hazard free. This means taking steps to ensure that all walkways are clear and safe to walk and there are no obvious or hidden dangers.

Equipment as defined in this Health and Safety course is not just the plant or tools that you use to do your job but ancillary pieces of equipment such as the chair you sit on or the kettle that boils the water for your tea. It is anything that is used as part of the overall process of you being at work is regarded as equipment.

Included within the definition of equipment is personal protective equipment (PPE) i.e. equipment and kit you use to carry out your job in a safe manner. This can include the provision of oil resistant footwear; safety glasses and gloves etc.  If an employer fails to provide you with appropriate PPE then they are in breach of the regulations that govern this requirement and chances are they will be liable for your injuries and losses.

For plant, equipment and kit your employer can, in certain circumstances, be liable for the negligent actions of your colleagues at work. Again, this depends on the circumstances. If, for example, a colleague walks over to you and gives you a touch blow then it is unlikely that your employer is responsible. However if such a colleague inadvertently drops a heavy metal bar on your hand then you would stand a good chance of having a successful claim against your employer.

The reason your employer is liable for the negligent actions of your colleagues is due to the concept of ‘vicarious liability’ so there is no need to bring a claim against a colleague who will probably not being carrying the required insurance to pay any damages due to you.

As well as making sure that you work in a safe and secure environment your employer should also ensure that they have:

  • An accident report book
  • A first aid kit and on-site trained first-aider

Make sure that all accidents you have are recorded in the accident book; if one is not available then make sure that full details of the incident; injuries, causes, witnesses etc. are noted and signed by a member of the management, or at the very least your department manager or foreman, depending on your work environment.