Employer and employee responsibilities
Both employers and employees are obliged under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 to reduce workplace hazards. Failure to meet these obligations may not only cause personal suffering and financial losses, but may also result in legal action.
Duty of care
Duty of care refers to the responsibility of each person to do everything within their power to ensure a safe and healthy environment.
Duty of care places into a legal form a moral duty to anticipate possible causes of injury and illness and to everything reasonably practicable to remove or minimise these possible causes of harm. This duty of care is written into the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 as obligations.
All adults in a workplace are legally responsible for workplace health and safety issues. Duty of care cannot be delegated. That means you cannot pass on that responsibility to anyone else.
Employers have an obligation to provide a work environment free from hazards and to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their workers and other people affected by the workplace.
They meet this obligation by complying with the relevant workplace health and safety regulations that govern their type of business and by following the Advisory Standard or adopting an equally effective way of managing exposure to risks. Employers who do not meet their obligations under the Act may face severe penalties (fines, imprisonment, lawsuits).
Workers must follow instructions and act in a way that does not place at risk their own health and safety or that of any other person. This relates to removing or dealing with hazards of any type.
Example: Obligations relating to manual handling
In relation to manual handling, employers must provide a workplace designed to minimise risk from hazards of back injury. This design includes furniture, equipment and containers used in the workplace.
In cases where manual handling is necessary, employers must provide one or more of the following, as applicable:
- mechanical lifting aids
- sufficient staff to allow team-lifting procedures
- adequate information, instruction, training and supervision to enable employees to work without risk to health and safety.
Workers must ensure that wherever possible:
- correct lifting procedures are followed
- mechanical aids or team-lifting procedures are used.
The manual handling policies and procedures of an organisation should be subject to discussion between employees and the employers who are required to carry out the manual handling, as well as their representatives on health and safety issues.