Responsibility for health and safety in the workplace
Your employer has two main responsibilities when it comes to preventing accidents in the work place:
- they should take measures to protect anyone in the workplace from harm (including visitors and customers);
- they should inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (or in certain situations, the local authority) in the case of specific incidents including accidents that prevent workers from returning to work for seven days or more.
It is an employer’s duty to conduct risk assessments, offer appropriate health and safety training, conduct emergency planning and provide adequate first aid. You can find out more about risk assessments here.
All workers are also responsibility for health and safety at work and must make sure they work safely and do not put themselves or others at risk.
If you have an accident
If you have an accident at work, you must make sure you:
- record it in the accident book;
- check that your employer has reported it to the HSE or local authority (if appropriate);
- report any associated risks or ongoing problems to your employer;
- tell your safety representative or steward.
If the risk or hazard that caused your accident is not addressed, then contact your UNISON safety rep who can advise you on the next course of action. Click here to contact your UNISON safety rep.
The HSE requires every employer to report certain types of incidents, including:
- fractures other than to the fingers, thumb or toes;
- dangerous situations such as a building collapse or some gas leaks;
- any injury that prevents an employee working for seven or more days;
- certain diseases.
If you have an accident that requires reporting and your employer hasn’t informed the HSE or local authority, if appropriate, they may be putting lives at risk and they are breaking the law.
Read more about hazard reporting .
If you become ill at work, you have the right to sick pay. This could be either occupational sick pay or statutory sick pay. Details of your occupational sick pay (if any) are listed in your employment contract.
If you do not have company (ie occupational) sick pay, your employer must pay you statutory sick pay, generally from the fourth full day of absence from work. This applies if you:
- earn £112 per week or more on average;
- are on sick leave for more than three consecutive days – this includes weekends and days you would not usually work.
Claiming for an injury at work
If you think your employer is to blame for an injury sustained at work, contact your UNISON rep, who can take you through the next steps.
If you make a claim, you are likely to require legal assistance. UNISON can support you with this and can supply legal services. Remember to act quickly, as claims must be made within three years of the incident.
Your employer must have liability insurance for this kind of claim, and must display a copy of the certificate of insurance at the workplace or make it available in electronic form or, in certain circumstances, provide a copy upon request.
Advice for UNISON health and safety reps
Safety reps have an important role as they should be consulted on the employers’ risk assessments and can help in deciding whether they’re appropriate.
As a safety rep, you have the right to help keep your workplace safe. You have the right to:
- investigate health and safety matters;
- be consulted;
- inspect the workplace;
- receive information, including risk assessments and records of accidents that have occurred;
- take paid time off to perform your functions and undergo training.
- No workplace is entirely risk free, but it is every employer’s responsibility to make sure that the potential for accidents at work is eliminated or minimised. You have the right to work in a safe environment, without unnecessary risk from accidents.
- Your employer has a duty to protect you at work.
- Your employer must report serious accidents to the HSE or local authority.
- If you are injured at work, you may have a legal case against your employer.
What is an accident book?
This is a document that details the time and place of any accident in the workplace. Safety reps are entitled to information recorded in the accident book.
An accident can help employers to identify risks in the workplace and may help if you wish to make a legal claim against your employer.
What if I feel my workplace is unsafe?
If you do not feel it is safe to work in your workplace, you should tell your employer about your concerns, and, if they are not resolved get in touch with your UNISON steward or safety rep.
Do not put yourself in a situation where you could cause harm to yourself or others.
Who is responsible for safety in the workplace?
Your employer is responsible for risk assessments, training and all aspects of health and safety at work. Employees have a responsibility to make sure that they do not put themselves or others at risk.
UNISON safety reps have the right to be consulted on any changes in conditions or policies that affect health or safety. If you do not have a safety rep in your workplace why not consider becoming one?