I'm gonna be up front on this one...I am NOT a Health & Safety (H&S) professional. But HR and H&S often overlap so it's crucial that you understand your obligations as an employer. We saw this overlap highlighted massively during the COVID-19 outbreak when HR departments all over the world had to work out how to keep people safe while at work.
As an employer, it's your responsibility to keep your employees as safe as possible whilst they are at work. We know that you can't bubble wrap your employees, but there are some basic steps you can take.
Assess the risks
It's your responsibility to risk assess employee tasks by identifying any ways in which employee health, safety and well-being might be impacted. This is really obvious for employees working on construction sites, but it also applies to office staff and home workers.
Remember that even when employees are working from home, you are still responsible for their health and safety, so appropriate risk assessments should be carried out.
Assessing risks should be an ongoing thing in your business as activities change and to take account of changes to employee health - for example the development of a health condition, a change in someone's health or fitness and pregnancy.
It's not enough to simply say "hey...that's a risky thing to do", you actually need to take action to help mitigate any risks.
The actions you take might include adapting your working practices & procedures to avoid any unnecessary risk taking, regular training for staff and, as a final step, providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
We can look to the pandemic to see ways in which organisations achieve this. For example supermarkets in the pandemic implemented one way systems down the aisles, reduced the amount of people who were allowed in the store at one time and provided sanitising stations.
Where we are looking at taking action to support the health and safety of an individual employee, it's important to remember to consult with the employee before you implement any changes.
For instance, pregnancy affects everyone differently. So you can't assume that all pregnant women are unable to be on their feet for more than 2 hours. When making reasonable adjustments for employees or protecting their health and safety, the employee is key in making sure the adaptations you implement are actually going to support them.
The final step in ensuring the health and safety of your staff is to provide information. Like, all the information you have. Make sure your Health & Safety policy is accessible to everyone. Ensure your safety procedures are written down and accessible to staff and make sure you communicate any changes to procedures. Tell people about upcoming training which is available to them and encourage constructive discussions about how you can make the workplace even safer!
Although HR and H&S overlap greatly, it's important that H&S initiatives are driven by senior managers within the company. HR are key in supporting the implementation of policies and adherence to policies, but if you want the whole team to buy into it, it needs to come from the top down.
And there you have it! Health, Safety & HR.