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Last updated: 23.07.19

Health and Safety at Work: Employee Responsibilities

Why is Health and Safety so important?

In order to ensure that people are safe at work, employers must follow the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This important piece of legislation places the major responsibility for employee safety on employers, as they are the ones with the most control over providing a safe environment for work. However, this does not mean that all of the responsibility is on employers. Employees must also have an input when it comes to keeping themselves and others safe while at work.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Within British workplaces, the primary piece of legislation which is responsible for health and safety standards is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – sometimes shortened to HASAWA or HSW. This legislation outlines a number of responsibilities that employers have in regards to their employees and maintaining a safe workplace environment.

If you want more information on the health and safety at work act 1974 Click here to check out our article explaining the key areas of the act.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees have a duty of care in the workplace, meaning you need to exercise care and cooperatively work with their employer.

There are three main elements to employee health and safety responsibility:

1. Taking care of your own health and safety

You must use your own common sense to keep yourself safe. It’s not entirely up to your employer to make sure that you don’t do something that would cause yourself injury. There have been countless lawsuits in the past that have revealed that rather than the employer being negligent, the employee simply didn’t do enough to keep him- or herself safe. For the most part, employees are naturally going to do what they can to keep themselves safe, but always bear in mind that you shouldn’t be taking any unnecessary risks and you should only carry out tasks that your confident that you can do safely.

2. Cooperate with others on health and safety

Workplaces are a collaborative environment, which is why under law employees do have some responsibility to others too. You must not do anything that might put your co-workers at risk. This can include things like reporting anything you find that you think is unsafe, not leaving trip hazards, and not asking anyone to do anything potentially dangerous such as moving excessively heavy objects. Cooperation will also mean working together on ensuring that health and safety policy is accurate and effective. Employers must engage with staff on this subject, and employees are obliged to respond where they can.

3. Follow the training given to you by your employer

If your employer has explained how to do something and given explicit instructions, then it is your legal obligation to follow them. If you have carried out a task and suffered an injury, then it is not fair to place the blame on the employer if you did not carry out the task as they instructed. This also includes using any safety equipment that the employer has given to you. If we think about a dangerous construction site for example, employers will have carried out a robust risk assessment and included details on how jobs can be done safely. If you don’t wear eyeglasses as instructed when using a power saw, any injury is not the fault of the employer.

Top Health and SafetyFAQs


What is fire safety?

Fire safety is a set of procedures which aim to reduce the amount of damage and injuries caused by fires. These include risk assessments to help identify and reduce areas of fire risk and formulate an emergency and evacuation plan in the event that a fire does break out.

How often should you do fire safety training?

Whenever new staff join the business, you’ll need to ensure they’re trained on your fire safety procedures. In addition to this, if anything changes within your business which adds new risks, you will need to inform all staff of the new fire risks.

Is manual handling training a legal requirement?

Under the Manual Handling Regulations you are legally obliged to ensure all employees are trained and competent in manual handling if their responsibilities may include manual handling.


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If you’re an employee and you feel you need to know more about your responsibilities at work, or you’re an employer and want to know what your employees must do to be safe at work, then consider taking our online safety training pack, which can be found here.

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