Responsibility for the health and safety of off-site employees
Every employer has a duty of care towards their employees—but how far does that duty extend? When they are in the workplace, this duty is fully in force. However, what if their work takes them off site? What if an accident occurs during work time outside of your premises? In this article, we look at the responsibilities of employers and how to keep your off-site employees safe.
First, what are your main responsibilities as an employer? Your duty of care is to ensure, as far as possible, the health, safety, and welfare of your staff while at work. This means conducting a risk assessment to spot health and safety hazards.
You must appoint a competent person to be responsible for managing health and safety in your workplace. For smaller businesses, this is usually the business owner, or managing director. In larger businesses, you should assign the role to a member of staff trained in workplace safety.
If you are an organisation with five or more people you must:
- keep an official record of what your risk assessment finds
- put plans in place to deal with the risks
- create and publish a formal health and safety policy.
Whatever the size of the business, you must:
- make your workplace safe
- prevent risks to staff health
- ensure plant equipment and machinery is safe to use
- set up safe working practices and make sure they are followed
- make sure any hazardous materials are handled, stored and used safely
- provide adequate first-aid facilities
- tell staff about potential hazards from the work you do and provide information, instructions, training and supervision as needed
- set up plans in cases of emergency
- make sure all facilities meet health and safety requirements, including ventilation, temperature, lighting, toilet, washing and rest facilities
- check that the work equipment provided is correct, properly used and regularly maintained
- prevent or control exposure to substances that may damage employee health
- take precautions against risks caused by flammable or explosive hazards, electrical equipment, noise, and radiation
- avoid dangerous work involving manual handling
- if manual handling can’t be avoided, take precautions to reduce risk of injury, including manual handling training
- provide health supervision as needed
- provide appropriate PPE free of charge where risks can’t be removed or controlled by other means
- make sure warning signs are correct and looked after
- report certain accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences to the HSE.
Your responsibility is to your staff. That means if they are working for you away from the main business site, then you are still liable for any accidents or incidents that occur. How you manage the risks depends on whether they are working alone or not.
A lone worker is anyone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision. Examples of lone workers include:
- delivery drivers
- health workers
- security staff
There are escalated risks for anyone working alone. Some of the most common risks include:
- violence in the workplace
- stress and mental health issues
- medical suitability
- new or existing health issues
- the workplace itself.
Certain high risk tasks require supervision by law. Where an employee is working in a confined space, for example, a supervisor is needed along with someone in a rescue role. Supervision is also necessary if working near exposed live electricity conductors or with fumigation.
We may know about the risks but how should they be addressed?
First, you should make it easy to report any incidents and issues. Encourage open communication so staff can address concerns before they become more significant. This is particularly relevant when dealing with workplace violence. The employee may feel intimidated or threatened and not want to report the incident.
Maintain regular communication with the employee. If a physical incident occurs, a drop in communication will highlight something is wrong. This action also ensures that any mental health issues are addressed. Isolation can affect performance, stress, and mental wellbeing. Regular check ins will combat this.
Having an emergency procedure in place will help lone workers deal with any emergencies that may occur. It should detail how and when they should contact their employer. Include emergency contact numbers, and first-aid advice.
Your risk assessment should highlight when supervision is needed, and how much you need to provide. The higher the risk, the more supervision you need to give. Part of the responsibility to employees is to provide sufficient training. If the employee is going to be undertaking high risk work, failure to train them would be a breach of an employer’s responsibilities.
What about those not working alone but at an external site?
First, the law states you must not put members of the public at risk. If working for a client, they should be aware of the duties owed by them generally under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and specifically regarding the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
This piece of legislation states that you must manage and monitor work carried out to ensure it is conducted without risks to health and safety. Those working at external sites must have the necessary skills, knowledge, training, and experience to carry out the tasks allocated to them. You must provide information to your workers on any risks highlighted by risk assessments.
Finally, you must ensure you have taken reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised access to any external site or place of work.
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