In any workplace, the employee’s role in health and safety is to carry out the protocols that keep them injury free. Ultimately, it’s up to each worker to make sure they don’t get hurt. For instance, some of the health and safety responsibilities of employees include wearing appropriate PPE, using guards on machinery, and making sure tools and machinery are working properly. All the training and safety equipment in the world is only effective if workers use it.
Health and Safety Responsibilities of Employees? What About Employers?
When we talk about workers being responsible for their own well-being in the workplace, the base assumption is that the employer already meeting safety regulations. If this is not the case, this means a slight shift in the duties of employees. Health and safety non-compliance becomes something they need to discuss with management. In larger companies, the role of a human resource department in employee safety and health is to implement and oversee training and compliance, so start there. If you work for a small company, you may need to speak directly to a manager or boss. If you alert the appropriate individuals about safety concerns and nothing changes, it’s time to contact your government regulator (OSHA in the United States).
While making sure employers are following the rules isn’t typically one of the standard employee duties, health and safety compliance does have the most impact on workers: they’re the ones at risk of getting hurt if employers shirk safety responsibilities. So when employers do not meet safety guidelines, it strongly behooves employees to demand that circumstances improve, or alert authorities who have the power to make those demands. Workers have rights as regards safety in the workplace and, when necessary, they should exercise those rights without fear or reprisal. It’s the law.
This short video provides pointers about how to confront higher-ups when you believe they’re doing something wrong. Keep in mind that safety issues are always high priority:
Beyond Basics: Expanding the Role of the Employee in Health and Safety
Let’s visit another, more positive scenario. Let’s assume you work for a company that does a good job meeting safety regulations and understands the power of a strong safety culture. This is an environment where an employee can be proactive about worker well-being. But what does that mean?
Health and Safety Isn’t Only About Avoiding Injuries
Many may see the topic of workplace health and safety as being totally focused on avoiding bad things. Often when we hear about workplace safety in the news, it’s about failures, and how those failures should have been prevented.
What we don’t hear so much about are the other side of health and safety, which is actually helping people be healthier and safer. That is, situations that go beyond making sure people don’t get hurt and that help people improve their wellness.
Every worker can play a part in this. What might it look like for you to become proactive about improving worker well-being, whatever your day-to-day job within the company?
You could encourage your employer to get creative about health and safety messaging or try ideas like these:
- Request healthier options for office vending machines
- Start a lunch-time walking group
- Ask your employer if they’ll pay half of employee gym memberships
- Bring in healthy snacks to complement birthday cake at birthday celebrations
- Suggest more fashionable PPE from your employer (seriously)
- Get coworkers to join you in making and videotaping a safety song (yes, it’s a thing!)
There are many ways to make workplace health and safety pursuits fun and rewarding. When your work environment and the people in it are safer and healthier, everyone is more satisfied, productive, and upbeat. This benefits you, and everyone around you.
Don’t Tell, Show
I can hear your thinking now: I know I’ll get blowback from co-workers for wanting to make healthy changes. I know Casey in receivables will for sure tease me about bringing carrot sticks to a birthday party and call me a granola tree-hugger, again.
Yes, there’s always a Casey or two. But remember that most people want to be healthier, even if they show resistance at first. Regardless, So what if Casey teases you? Let Casey be Casey, and you be you. Make your healthy choices and enthusiastically offer others the opportunity to join you. Don’t bother with telling the Caseys to change; just show him what change and healthy choices look like, and invite him to follow along if he wants to. You may be surprised.
When you consider, What are the employee’s responsibilities for health and safety?, the answer doesn’t have to go beyond, “Follow the rules”. But if you do make the extra effort, it’s a way to set yourself apart from others. A way to show your leadership skills and your ability to inspire people to change their habits. Any savvy manager or business owner should also recognize the many benefits improved health and safety have on profitability, and business in general. Not only will they appreciate your efforts, but also the company-wide rewards for those efforts.
There Are No Downsides to Better Health and Safety
Health and safety are always good things. Striving to elevate the employee’s role in health and safety will only serve to improve the overall workplace experience.
How can I successfully implement new safety initiatives?
How do I get buy-in from management and workers?
What’s the best way to build trust and rapport?
Should EHS be a C-Suite position?
We explore these questions and more on the Safety Labs by Slice podcast. Check us out using the links below.