All employers have a duty of care which is to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have a duty to protect non-employees from risks arising out of their work activities.
These are expressed as broad general duties in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 but are covered in more detail in subsidiary regulations, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Duties can range from ensuring a safe work environment. clearly defining jobs roles and undertaking risk assessments, to protecting staff from bullying, harassment and discrimination. They will invariably be measures taken to avoid accident, injury and subsequent penalties.
It can be for the most part, common sense, ie signposts on wet floors, cordoning off open manholes in the ground etc, but these simple measures are often overlooked or ignored for a range of reasons. These reasons can range from ignorance to innocent neglect, whether it be forgetting to put the sign out, or not bothering to do so. These actions, or lack of actions, can still nevertheless contribute to an incident that all parties would much rather avoid.
The outcome can be catastrophic. Injuries to employees or members of the public can lead to huge financial and reputational repercussions for the responsible person, whilst also having profound effects on the victim.
In any organisation, duty of care should be the first line of defence against accident, injury or worse. It is to protect the health and wellbeing of people in addition to protecting a company’s reputation, finances and record.
It is of the utmost importance that duty of care is impressed upon all relevant people in an organisation, to help combat the recent statistics showing a rise in occupational fatalities, which is an unfortunate reverse after years of decreasing figures.