A Guide to Addressing Safety Concerns in the Workplace
As an employee it’s vital that you feel safe and secure in your workplace. However, sometimes safety concerns arise that need to be addressed. Whether it’s a faulty piece of equipment or a lack of PPE, it’s crucial to bring these issues to your employer’s attention. By raising a potential issue and allowing it to be addressed, you help to create a safer and healthier workplace for yourself and your colleagues.
While your employer has a duty of care to you and your colleagues and is responsible for creating and enforcing a health and safety policy, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) places a responsibility on everyone to ensure health and safety within an organisation. This includes business owners, managers, supervisors, contractors and staff on all levels within the organisation. Additionally, if you’re working and carrying out potentially dangerous activities every day, you may be more likely to spot hazards and failings than your employer, who may have never done this task before.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 stipulates that employees are required to report health and safety shortcomings as well as any dangerous situations including actual incidents and accidents.
How to report health and safety concerns
If an issue is causing an imminent threat to a person, you need to act immediately. Help the person exposed to the hazard and deal with any consequences once they are safe. If the threat is not imminent, you should approach your employer to raise your concerns before an incident occurs. Here is our advice for how to raise these concerns with your employer.
Before talking to your employer, gather some evidence of the concern you have and plan what you’d like to say. This will help you to remember everything you want to include when you meet with them in person.
If there is a specific incident that caused your concern, it can be useful to have the date and time of the incident in your notes, as well as any accident reports or witness statements available. Records of any prior conversations you’ve had about the issue may also be useful to reference. This includes any emails, letters or messages of anyone raising their concerns.
It’s also worth doing some basic research about the problem. For example, if you believe there is a problem with a lack of PPE when completing a task, research what PPE is recommended for completing those activities and what other resources are available.
Have a solution in mind
Often, the problem can be solved more efficiently if you have a solution in mind and information that you can mention or send to your employer.
If you’re carrying out a set of tasks with poor health and safety procedures in place every day or, if you’re seeing colleagues ignore best practices, it might be obvious to you how to resolve the issue. This could be implementing a new piece of equipment, adding reminders of the procedures to follow or running a refresher training session.
If your company has a reporting process in place, you should use this to submit your concerns to the relevant person. If your company doesn’t have a set process, you should raise the issue with your team leader or manager.
In order to have everybody on board, it’s vital that you follow the appropriate chain of command. The first person you raise your concerns with should be your immediate supervisor. Give them a heads up on the situation and give them an opportunity to fix the problem if they have the authority to do so. They may also be able to show you the risk assessment for the hazard to provide you with peace of mind. If they do not have the power to fix the problem, they should escalate this to their manager, and so on.
If you’re having a meeting in person to discuss your concerns, you could ask a colleague to join you to help explain the problem. Having more than one person raise the issue could mean your concerns get taken more seriously, and having someone else there who understands your point of view can help to put you at ease.
Health and safety concerns can be a sensitive topic, so maintaining professionalism and staying calm is crucial when discussing worries with your employer. By approaching the conversation with a positive attitude and looking to resolve the situation, you can increase the chances of finding a solution that benefits everyone.
This means remaining respectful and professional, even if you feel frustrated or upset at the situation at hand. When you remain calm, it’s more likely that you will be taken seriously and that your employer will work with you to find a solution. If you feel the conversation is becoming unproductive, it may be helpful to take a break and come back to the discussion another time.
Document the conversation
Document all conversations you have regarding your concerns and follow up after any discussions confirming any actions agreed upon and necessary deadlines. This will help to ensure that action points don’t get missed or forgotten. These notes will also act as evidence of your discussions and provide proof that you have raised your concerns, should it ever be needed.
If there is no improvement in the issues you have raised and your health or safety continues to be at risk, you can raise your concerns with the relevant enforcing authority. In this instance, having a date and timestamped record of your prior conversations provides evidence of your previous attempts to resolve the issue.
What is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998?
As an employee, you have the right to a safe workplace and the right to voice any concerns for your safety without the fear of repercussions. If you feel that your safety concerns have not been taken seriously or addressed, you have the right to contact the relevant enforcing body.
If you are worried about reporting concerns, it’s important to note that The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) protects workers who blow the whistle when reporting a health and safety risk. This means your employer cannot fire you, reduce your pay, change your working conditions or move you to a less desirable position as a result. If they do, you can also report this to Citizens Advice or raise a claim to an employment tribunal.
What is the Health and Safety Executive?
If you see something in a workplace that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it directly to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or phone them on 0300 003 1647.
In the UK, the HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety for most working activities and at many workplaces including:
- Construction (builders, building work, building sites, repair work and civil engineering projects)
- Factories and manufacturing
- Education establishments including schools, colleges and universities
- Municipal facilities including gas, electricity and water systems, waste management sites
- Hospitals and nursing homes
- Central and local government premises
Once you submit your concern to the HSE, they will review your claim and contact you for more information within 3 working days, if needed. Within 15 working days they will email you the outcome of their review, although you can contact them if you don’t agree with their decision.
Local councils are responsible for enforcing health and safety at other workplaces including:
- offices (except government offices)
- restaurants and cafes
- leisure premises
- nurseries and playgroups
- pubs and clubs
- sheltered accommodation and care homes
Many industry specific enforcing authorities exist alongside the HSE that are able to enforce health and safety in various workplaces. For example;
- Environmental Health Department
- Office of Rail and Road (ORR)
- Care Quality Commission
- Office for Nuclear Regulation
In some industries you may also be protected by unions or employee representatives who can provide support, for example, the British Medical Association, Fire Brigades Union and National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. If you’re unsure if you could be supported by a union, you can search on the Trades Union Congress.
Benefits of raising safety concerns
Voicing your safety concerns is not only the right thing to do, but it’s crucial if you want to work in a safe and healthy work environment.
By following the steps outlined above, you can effectively raise your concerns and find a solution that works for everyone. Remember, your employer has a responsibility to provide you with a safe working environment and your safety should always be a priority.