Spending eight to ten hours at work during the week makes this activity a major part of the life of your employees. And you’re responsible for their safety all this time, so it’s crucial to build a safe and friendly working environment. It will not only make your employees more committed to their jobs, but it will also contribute to the overall productivity of your company. Furthermore, businesses spend around 170 million bucks every year on the cases of workplace injuries, which means that it also has a direct influence on your profit. If you follow the policies recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these injury and illness costs can be reduced by 20 to 40 per cent.  In addition to the increase in productivity and the fact that you’ll save money, the safe environment also boosts the morale of your employees. That’s why it’s mandatory to concentrate on the safety of your employees, and your HR department also has the role to play.

Wearing Too Many Hats

When it comes to the health and safety of a company, the role of human resources (HR) can vary significantly, depending on the culture, structure, and the size of the company. In most cases when small companies are concerned HR is everything – from the Benefits and Wage Department, across the Workers’ Compensation, to the Safety and Health Department. This presents a large concern in terms of legal liability since it means the lack of full-time safety professionals. If your HR is wearing too many hats, the inevitable result will be that none of them will fit properly. Health and safety statutes and regulations are full of ever-expanding complexity, so it’s mandatory that the HR department in your small or medium sized business at least retains an outside safety consultant who will make sure your safety program is fully compliant with OSHA laws, providing assistance.

No Signal

On the other hand, larger companies have their Safety and Health Department and their HR department as two separate entities, who often report to different upper management officials. This creates a pretty wide separation of involvement with Health and Safety and results in a serious dilemma for the professionals in your HR department. This could lead to a ‛no signal’ situation, and the coordination between these two departments is essential when it comes to meeting OSHA and safety and health laws, both, local and state. In order to fulfil their responsibilities, your Safety and Health Department professionals need the information about short-term and long-term disability, sickness, absenteeism, etc. and your HR Department professionals are the ones who most likely have it. So if you want your Safety and Health Departement to be able to communicate procedures and policies properly, it will need the assistance of the HR Departement. The role of HR in a well-defined safety program is to mediate between the needs of management and the concerns of employees, and for that, it needs to have an active part in the safety programme. Now let’s have a closer look at these activities.


One of the most important things in the workplace is trust – it is a foundation of a good team, and a bunch of individuals won’t make your business grow. And the key component in maintaining that trust lies in the encouragement of open communication on any safety or health-related issues. No employee should fear to express his or her concern for safety goals in the company, and many employees do fear to express their safety concerns to direct managers. They would feel more at ease talking to your HR personnel, so one of the roles of this department is to hold one-on-one meetings with your employees on this subject.

Clear & Strict Guidelines

The essential way to prevent workplace injuries is to discourage all the employees who are not designated to work in a certain high-risk position to enter hazardous zones. That means that your HR personnel should make the qualifications required for these work positions crystal clear so candidates will be able to tell if they’re suitable for them. They should also post stringent warning signs and label unsafe environments. Even in the offices that have less physical risks its mandatory to identify all potential hazards such as leaks and broken glass right away.  Writing a proper health and safety policy will not only protect you from the fines, litigation and the cost of lost time, it will also make sure your client contracts and reputation remain intact.

Being Prepared

Keep in mind that simply having a policy won’t revolutionize your practices. If you want your staff to be effective, it must be trained. This is where the collaboration between your health and safety managers and your HR is the most important. Providing some level of training in order to protect the safety and health of your employees is your legal duty. The health and safety training has some mandatory requirements, the first being a first aid course, followed by safety regulations against fire and asbestos, working in confined spaces, safety at heights, etc.

But if you want to avoid the financial cost of demotivated stuff and lost time, and the distress caused by ill health and accidents, your HR personnel should go much further from simply demonstrating legal compliance. In every business there are physical dangers that your staff needs to be aware of, so your training sessions need to be memorable. This means that your training shouldn’t be a box-ticking exercise – it needs to be highly engaging.  Your HR personnel can find ways to engage with staff by helping them to achieve a real change in culture instead than simply absorbing a set of rules. That way the process will become interesting and your employees enthusiastic about adopting new procedures. It is about achieving a behavioural change in working practice and providing a clear evaluation of success.

Don’t make your safety and health concepts generic – your training needs to be relevant to specific jobs. If practical skills are required, having a lecture for a day won’t stimulate the audience. Your HR Department should take your employees into a scenario where they’ll be able to face the risks. If they need to know how to assess risk, they need to be shown the risk in their workplace. It is mandatory to include practical exercise and manual handling techniques – while explaining how to react to fire, they need to be allowed to have a go with a fire extinguisher.

The Right Equipment

Your HR Department should also have a close collaboration with your Facility Management, encouraging them to invest in safety equipment and tools such as masks, ear protection, eye protection, anti-slip mats, etc. These simple products are extremely effective in cultivating a general sense of wellbeing inside the workplace. They shouldn’t be considered as a special treatment, but as general working conditions that are shoulder to shoulder with washing facilities and clean drinking water.

Prevention at The Core

The last, but not the least role of your HR Department should be the assistance during the recruitment and selection of employees. This process can highly boost the prevention of workplace illness and injury in many ways.  It is essential to make sure that all successful candidates can demonstrate a commitment to safe work practices and that they’re able to identify with them. Your HR personnel can take care of safety psychometric testing and the implementation of WHS questions in the interviews.

As you can see, the roles are many, but you need to make sure your HR Department is a separate entity with a strong collaboration with your Health and Safety Department. HR professionals are there to provide open communication, proper guidelines, engaging training, and the necessary equipment. Engaging them already in the recruitment phase can make things much easier.