Everyone plays a role in workplace safety

Reviewed by David Carroll, General Manager

Who is responsible for a safe working environment, and once established, how do you maintain it? The truth is that while employers are responsible for providing workers with a safe work environment, everyone – from managers to supervisors, to general employees – plays a role in safety. The onus is on all workers to meet the relevant health and safety expectations and goals. Like many things in life, it truly is a group effort.

But what are the responsibilities of the employer and the employee, respectively, and how should organisations work to create a safety-first culture?

What are the responsibilities of the business or employer?

If you are an employer or a business owner, you have a legal responsibility (known as your primary duty of care) as stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. The Act recognises that a well-functioning health and safety system relies on participation, leadership, and accountability by government, businesses and employees. Not only does the Act set out the principles, duties and rights in relation to workplace health and safety, it is also the guiding principle requiring workers and others to be given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, as is reasonable.

By ensuring these measures are established, you are meeting your duty of care as an organisation or employer. We can’t do this alone. Everyone needs to work together on health and safety.

How can you ensure a safe work environment?

When we talk about employee safety, this doesn’t simply refer to an employee’s physical wellbeing; it also refers to psychological safety. So far, we have outlined what a business or an employer can do to ensure that workers are able to physically complete their work at a safe level. However, there are measures that you can set up to ensure a safe work environment where employees feel valued, heard, and proud to be representing your business.

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to provide a safe workplace. Since you have a duty of care for your employees’ health and wellbeing while at work, should bullying or discrimination occur in the workplace, you will not be meeting this responsibility. Read more about anti-discrimination laws here.

Here are other examples of how to achieve a safe workplace for all:

  • Ensure that professional development and further learning and training are supported and encouraged.
  • Obstacles that negatively impact employees’ mental health should be identified and removed as swiftly as possible.
  • Diversity should be viewed as an advantage – as something that will benefit your business.
  • Focus on retaining employees. When staff turnover is high, this can lead to others feeling overworked, leading to low morale.
  • Ensure that your workers feel like important, productive members of the team. No matter what level your employees are at, they should feel like their contribution is valued.
  • Oversee that the conduct of your business does not harm others. This includes visitors, volunteers (who are not classified as employees), the public and other contractors or workers.
  • You may also have obligations to meet when it comes to licensing, registration, and certification requirements and more.

What are the safety responsibilities of the employee?

While employers are required to provide a safe work environment, employees also play a key role in safety. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employees must:

  • Take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
  • Take reasonable care that what they do or don’t do does not adversely affect the health and safety of other people.
  • Cooperate with any reasonable workplace health and safety policy or procedure that their business has.
  • Comply with any reasonable instructions given by the business they work for1.

How can employees collaborate with employers to maintain a safe working environment?

When it comes to workplace safety standards, it is a two-way street. This means that both employers and employees need to play their part to keep safety at the forefront of it all.

Here are some ways that employees and employers can work together to ensure a safe working environment that benefits everyone:

  • Employees should bring workplace hazards to the attention of coworkers, supervisors, employers and/or the relevant health and safety committees. However, for this to occur, employees need to know that their concerns will be heard. It is up to the employers to listen and to take steps to rectify the safety issues, so employees feel comfortable bringing these concerns to their attention in the first place.
  • To meet their health and safety responsibilities, employers can implement procedures and work practices and provide information, training and supervision. Employees must cooperate with their employer’s efforts by adhering to these safety policies and procedures and attend the relevant training when requested.
  • As part of their duty of care, employers are required to provide the correct safety equipment. It is then up to the employee to use or wear this equipment. This might mean the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like work safety boots, or high-visibility vests or hard hats when appropriate.

These are just a few examples of how employees and employers can work together to create and maintain a safety-first workplace environment. Visit the Bodycare website for more information.

Is a safe workplace a happy workplace?

By creating and maintaining a safe and secure workplace environment for all, you are bound to see a noticeable increase in employee productivity and satisfaction, thereby leading to better outcomes for all.

When it comes to creating a positive safety-first work culture, we know that education and health and safety training are crucial. As one of New Zealand’s leading providers of occupational health services and solutions, it is our mandate to assist businesses in building healthy and resilient workforces by providing holistic occupational health services that are underpinned by industry-leading technology and software systems.

If you’re searching for interactive occupational health and safety training courses that are designed to educate and upskill organisations, our highly skilled team is trained to deliver them, in line with the relevant health and safety policies. Contact us today to learn more.



1 WorkSafe