Bosses across the country are unintentionally flouting basic laws designed to keep employees safe and well at work due to commonly held misconceptions over their safety responsibilities.
According to health and safety advisor Croner, failure to manage stress, cutting corners to save money on safety, and not reporting accidents are just a few of the most common errors.
Trevor Davies, health and safety expert at Croner said: “Through working closely with businesses to design and implement health and safety policies, we’ve come across the same slip-ups time and time again. Employers are failing to comply with the law due to what are essentially mythical beliefs over their responsibilities.”
Davies separated fact from fiction with a few of the most common health and safety myths:
Fiction: Employers cannot be prosecuted for work-related stress.
Fact: Stress is considered a hazard, ie something that can cause harm. Failure to manage stress appropriately is a breach of the employer’s responsibility under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to reasonably ensure the mental and physical health and safety of employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. Psychological as well as physical capabilities must be assessed in relation to tasks, with suitable training provided. The Health and Safety Executive takes stress very seriously and now regularly asks companies for a copy of their written stress risk assessment.
Fiction: Health & safety compliance is solely the employer’s responsibility.
Fact: Employers have a ‘duty of care’ to all employees to take reasonable action to keep them safe, well and comfortable. Employees also have a duty to work safely and co-operate with health and safety procedures. Employers must ensure employees are clearly informed of these responsibilities.
Fiction: It’s easier for employers not to report accidents.
Fact: Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, employers have a legal duty to report certain accidents. This includes all major injuries e.g. fractures, amputations or dislocations or any other injury which leads to an incapacity to work for more than three days. Failure to do so is a criminal offence for which employers could be fined up to £20,000. Information gathered from accident reports is essential as it helps enforcing authorities to advise on preventative action.
Fiction: The workplace can’t exceed a legal maximum temperature.
Fact: The legal minimum temperature for most workplaces is 16C, but there is no legally enforced maximum. However, employers have a responsibility for employees’ welfare and ‘thermal comfort’ in the workplace, which should be a ‘reasonably comfortable temperature’, considering the level of physical activity.
Fiction: The employer must provide personal protective equipment (PPE), but the employee can choose not to use it.
Fact: Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees and others and, under The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, they must enforce the use of and properly maintain PPE. Employees cannot ‘opt out’ of using PPE and employers can be held responsible should injury occur through failure to enforce its use.