Employers should give their workers the right information, instruction, and training so that they can work safely and take steps to protect themselves from hazards. This is not only a legal duty but also contributes to the success of their business.
Employer’s responsibilities include providing:
- information that is easy to understand and follow (normally in the workers mother tongue) so workers are aware of the hazards and risks they face, the measures in place to control the risks, and how to follow any emergency procedures;
- clear instructions so everyone working for them knows what they are expected to do;
- adequate safety and health training that is relevant and effective. This should take place during work hours and must be provided free of charge;
- an appropriate level of supervision, which is particularly vital for new, inexperienced and young workers.
New and expectant mothers
Employers when carrying out their general risk assessment should take into account female workers of childbearing age, including new or expectant mothers (i.e. workers who are pregnant, have given birth within the last six months or are breastfeeding).
Employers should consider the risks that may arise from any process, working condition, or physical, biological or chemical agents. Some of the more common risks are:
- lifting or carrying heavy loads;
- standing or sitting for long periods;
- exposure to infectious diseases;
- exposure to lead;
- work-related stress;
- workstations and posture;
- exposure to radioactive material;
- long working hours;
- exposure to toxic chemicals.
If any significant risks have been identified, employers must take the appropriate action as soon as they are notified (in accordance with national legislation) that a worker is a new or expectant mother, to ensure that she is not further exposed.
If employers are unable to avoid or control any risks that go beyond the level of risk found outside the workplace, then they must take appropriate action. This might include altering working conditions and/or hours of work or finding suitable alternative work.
If the risks can’t be avoided or alternative work found, employers should suspend the worker on paid leave for as long as necessary to avoid the risks to them.
Businesses and self-employed people using temporary workers must provide the same level of safety and health protection for them as they do for other workers.
Providers of temporary workers and employers using them need to co-operate and communicate clearly with each other to ensure risks to those workers are managed effectively.
Both parties need to agree who does what. Neither party must assume the ‘other side’ will take responsibility it must be ensured that:
- before temporary workers start, that they are covered by risk assessments, and they know what measures have been taken to protect them;
- they understand the information and instructions they need to work safely, and have had any necessary training;
- consideration of the language needs of temporary workers particularly those who do not speak the national language well or at all (see the advice on migrant workers later in this section);
- check before they start, that they have any occupational qualifications or skills needed for the job;
- both parties have agreed on arrangements for providing/maintaining any personal protective equipment, and any necessary health surveillance;
- agree on arrangements for reporting relevant accidents to the enforcing authority.
New to the job and young workers
Workers are at particular risk of injury in the first six months of a job, when they are more likely to be unaware of existing or potential risks. Young people will often be in this category.
In order to protect new workers employers should follow the six steps below
- Assess the new starter’s capabilities.
- Plan and provide an induction to the workplace and job role.
- Make sure control measures to protect against risks are up to date, and being properly used and maintained.
- Provide relevant information, instruction and training.
- Provide adequate supervision.
- Check workers have understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely.
National safety and health legislation should define the ages for young persons. The United Nations, for statistical purposes, defines youth (young persons) to be between the ages of 15 and 24. However, as stated by Article 3 of Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) children (any person under the age of 18) should not conduct work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm their health, safety or morals.
Employers, in addition to their safety and health responsibilities for all their workers are responsible for ensuring young persons are not exposed to risk due to:
- lack of experience;
- being unaware of existing or potential risks;
- lack of maturity.
Employers before deciding whether they can employ a young person, must consider legislation and some specific risks which are summarized below:
- strictly respect the national legislation listing prohibitive work for young workers
- the fitting-out and layout of the workplace and the particular site where they will work;
- the nature of any physical, biological and chemical agents they will be exposed to, for how long and to what extent;
- what types of work equipment will be used and how this will be handled;
- how the work and processes involved are organized;
- the level of safety and health training given to young people;
- risks from the particular agents, processes and work.
Employers should also be aware that students and trainees on work experience may be regarded in safety and health law as workers. Employers must provide them with the same safety, health and welfare protection as other workers.
Businesses employing migrant workers should focus on four main areas to ensure their safety and health:
- Training: They may be completely unfamiliar with workplace risks, and may have never done the sort of work being asked of them to do – employers must make sure induction training is clear and simple.
- Communication: They may have problems communicating in the national language. Employers must ensure they communicate clearly and effectively, for example by providing information in other languages or visual formats if necessary. Workers must understand what is required of them and be aware how, and with whom, they can raise concerns.
- Competence: This may be unclear. Employers should, before migrant workers start working at their workplace, check that they have the occupational qualifications or skills needed for the job, and assess skill levels gained from overseas qualifications (e.g. for forklift driving).
- Attitude to health and safety: Migrant workers may have different expectations about safety and health at work and their responsibilities. Employers must make sure these workers understand the importance of health and safety in their workplace, how it’s managed, and that effective supervision can address any weaknesses in understanding instruction/ training. Workers from some cultures may assume accidents are their own fault, or just inevitable, which can affect commitment to reducing and controlling risks.
Establishing a healthy and safe working environment for lone workers can be different from organizing the safety and health of other workers. Lone workers should not be put at more risk than other people working for the same business.
It, if risk control measures are in place, will often be safe to work alone. However, the law can require employers to think about and deal with any safety and health risks before people are allowed to work alone.
Things employers could consider to help ensure lone workers are not put at risk include:
- assessing areas of risk including violence, manual handling, the medical suitability of the individual to work alone and whether the workplace itself presents a risk to them;
- requirements for training, levels of experience and how best to monitor and supervise them;
- making sure you know what is happening, including having systems in place to keep in touch with them.
Employers are normally required to protect the health, safety and welfare of homeworkers. If homeworkers are employed then the employer should carry out a risk assessment of the work activities and take appropriate measures to reduce any associated risks.
Office type work carried out at home is likely to be low risk but some work activities conducted at home may be more high risk. Of the work equipment used at home, employers are normally only responsible for the equipment they supply.
If a business’s homeworkers are doing activities such as working with adhesives or soldering, employers need to ensure that workers are safely protected from the particular risks involved in these activities. For example, they need to check that any equipment supplied is in good condition and that they have the correct personal protective equipment if needed.
A transient worker, sometimes also known as a peripatetic worker, is defined as someone who works away from their normal work base either for part or all of their work. It can also refer to someone who has no fixed work base.
Employers risk assessments for transient workers will need to take into account the type of work they are doing away from the normal work base – this would usually include:
- working alone;
- late, evening and nightshift work;
- working in confined spaces;
- violence towards staff;
- safe use and maintenance of tools and equipment;
- working with harmful substances, manual handling and other health requirements such as health surveillance;
- provision, use and maintenance of personal protective equipment (PPE);
- first aid and emergencies.
People with disabilities
If businesses employ people with disabilities they normally have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to their workplace for them.
Their safety and health risk assessment should help them decide what adjustments may be required. These can include:
- changing the way things are done;
- making changes to overcome physical barriers;
- providing extra equipment;
- adjusting working time as necessary, including teleworking.
If employers have a contractor working for them, then the employer and the contractor normally both have duties under safety and health legislation. This would apply when a contractor employs subcontractors.
When businesses employ contractors they should:
- select a suitable subcontractor – ensuring they have sufficient skills and knowledge to do the job safely and without risks to safety and health;
- assess the risks of the work – the level of risk will depend on the nature of the job. Whatever the risk, the employer will need to consider the safety and health implications;
- do a risk assessment – both the business and the contractor should be aware of its findings. The employer should already have a risk assessment for the work activities of their own business. The contractor must assess the risks for the contracted work. Then both should get together to consider any risks from each other’s work that could affect the safety and health of the workforce or anyone else;
- provide information, instruction and training to their own workers. Employers should also provide any information to contractors on the risks from their activities and the controls they have in place. It may also be beneficial for employers to consider, with the contractor, what instruction and training contractors will need;
- set up liaison arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination with all those responsible to ensure the safety and health of everyone in the workplace;
- decide what they need to do to manage and supervise the work of contractors and agree the nature of the controls before work starts.