What is Health and Safety in a Workplace?

Workplace Health and Safety

Health and Safety in a workplace is secured if there is an absence of threats to physical and mental health. It is much better to prevent injures than to heal them after they have happened. HSE says that a safe place of work is a clean, well-ventilated, well-lit and well-maintained environment.

Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational health & safety (OHS) is a vital part of workplace well-being and should be secured at all costs by employers.

To ensure Health and Safety in a workplace, organisations must promote “positive wellbeing as well as preventing injury and illness”. The term does not only include the absence of illness or injury, as it secures both the physical and mental health of an employee which are both equally as important.

Organisations have a duty of care in their rights and responsibilities to secure the wellbeing of all members of staff, as well as people who could be affected by employee’s work. According to the Health and Safety Executive, or HSE, it is predominantly the employer’s job to secure employee wellbeing and provide a safe place of work. However, there are certain aspects that can only be attributed to members of staff, such as ensuring the wellbeing of colleagues around them and co-operating in relevant safety training.

HSE statistics show just how important maintaining employee wellbeing is, as in the year 2012/13 there were an estimated 1.2 million people working with an illness, and 28.2 million days were lost due to work-related injury and illness.[1]

OHS is hugely important to make employees feel safe, prevent injuries at work and create a good working environment by preserving productivity. Therefore, it is in the interests of both employer and employee to follow appropriate policies.

OHS in UK Law

It is the sole job of the employer to fulfill certain things in their duty of care to members of staff. These may include providing equipment that is safe to use, creating a safe workplace free of trip hazards, ensuring there are things like fire extinguishers at work and giving employees protection equipment if it is needed. In addition, employees must provide safety training to detail the threats identified in the workplace, to prevent injuries at work.

Organisations are legally obliged to implement measures that will secure every employee’s wellbeing through appropriate means. This means carrying out a risk assessment to identify potential areas of danger, and there are a number of OHS laws governing these processes. Some examples of these include:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, or HASAWA/HASAW/HSWA
  • The Control of Hazardous Substances to Health 2002, or COSHH
  • Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992, or DSE
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, or MHOR
  • The Control of Asbestos Regulations, 2012

The most well-known law is the Health and Safety at Work Act, and it is enforced by HSE. It has many statutory regulations that govern specific hazards like DSE. Of course, these acts are more relevant to certain sectors than others, with some more suited to physically oriented jobs like the manual handling regulations. Some of these laws, like COSHH, require a specialised risk assessment with more conditions to meet, as the problems that hazardous substances can cause are severe and life-threatening.

If organisations fail to follow these OHS regulations and guidelines and an employee is injured at work, they could file for negligence and the company may have to face a huge fine or pay-out. Significant reputational damage can occur if the public find-out that the duty of care to employees has been voided, especially if it causes long-term fitness problems.

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[1] https://www.citation.co.uk/news/health-and-safety/latest-hse-stats-released/