What Are an Employer’s Legal Obligations to Employees for Health and Safety?
As a responsible employer, you wouldn’t knowingly endanger your employees. After all, you want to keep able-bodied talent in your company as much as possible. You also want to attract more talented individuals as your business grows. But you can’t attract any employees, talented or otherwise, unless you have a safe workplace.
Additionally, if you don’t make your office, warehouse or jobsite healthy and secure for the people who work there, you could get in legal trouble. Your employees could suffer injuries and sue you, or the government could discover your oversights during an audit.
Luckily, you can avoid these problems entirely if you understand your obligations. Read below to familiarise yourself with some of these legal responsibilities. If you have any questions about your unique business and its practises, talk to qualified legal advisers.
1. Give Employees All the Necessary Safety Equipment
This equipment could include hard hats, safety harnesses, heavy boots, gloves and even heat shields. This equipment could also include safety dividers and other devices that you put on dangerous or heavy machinery. Or, if you work in an office, your safety equipment could include emergency exits or even wrist supports for employees who constantly type.
2. Meet Fire Codes and Other Building Safety Standards
When your building meets fire codes, it has the correct placement for and number of fire exits. You can’t have anything blocking those fire exits either. Your building will also have working fire alarms, fire extinguishers and other necessary equipment. Make sure your building meets code by researching the standards for your state or municipality.
3. Provide Access to Clean Water, Hygienic Eating Areas and Toilets
If your workers don’t have pure running water, tidy toilets or clean eating or lounging areas, then they risk dehydration and other bodily complications. Make sure your employees have access to all three so they can stay comfortable and healthy.
4. Use Only Well-Kept Equipment and Tools in Your Workplace
The older and more worn your equipment becomes, the less safely it operates. Have an expert inspect your machinery and tools at least twice a year, if not once a quarter. And when your equipment no longer functions safely, replace it with something newer and more dependable.
5. Thoroughly Train Your Employees in All Tasks They Undertake
An untrained employee could make an injurious or even fatal mistake, so don’t let anyone do anything at your company until they know the responsibilities and risks. After all, if a new employee makes a mistake because he or she didn’t have training, the blame falls on you, not that worker.
6. Monitor Your Employee’s Health
Do you have loud machinery in your warehouse or office? By law, you must screen your employees’ hearing regularly. And, depending on your state or municipality, you may also have to monitor your workers’ health if they spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer. Basically, you must watch for anything that could detract from your employees’ health.
7. Keep Records About Workers’ Health Monitoring, Including All Incidents
While you monitor, don’t forget to keep track of all the data you collect. When incidents occur, describe those in detail as well. You’ll need this information later if you run into legal trouble.
8. Use All of the Necessary Tools If You Handle Dangerous Goods
In some cases, you have to deal with additional obligations because you handle toxic or otherwise dangerous goods. Make sure you know the legal codes and responsibilities for your particular kind of business before you hire employees.
9. Give Employees an Avenue to File Safety Complaints
You don’t want your company to have a reputation for ignoring its employees, especially before accidents occur. Give your workers a safe (possibly even anonymous) way to file health and safety complaints through either email or a physical suggestions box.
10. Purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Some states, like Queensland, require employers to have workers’ compensation insurance. Don’t forget to purchase yours.
Essentially, if you do as much as you can to keep your workplace safe and healthy, you should avoid the legal trouble that comes with employee injuries. Show the world that you are a responsible employer. And, again, if you have any questions about your particular business, call a qualified legal adviser.