Employers have legal obligations to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. As an employee, you have rights, and you have responsibilities for your own wellbeing and that of your colleagues. This article explains what these responsibilities are, and how you can meet them.
Your rights as an employee to work in a safe and healthy environment are given to you by law, and generally can't be changed or removed by your employer. The most important rights are:
The most important responsibility is a general, statutory obligation to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all others in the workplace. Apart from this, your most important responsibilities as an employee are:
Your employer must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to you free of charge. You must use this correctly, and follow the training and instruction you've been given.
In some jobs, failure to use PPE properly can be grounds for disciplinary action or even dismissal. However, you can refuse to wear PPE if it puts your safety at risk (e.g. PPE of the wrong size could put you at risk because of its poor fit). Ask your employer or the firm's safety representative for the right size (which must be provided free of charge).
Sikhs who wear turbans can legally refuse to wear head protection on religious grounds, but Sikhs who don't wear turbans must wear head protection.
You should first of all discuss your concerns with your employer or immediate boss. Your company may have a safety representative, who might be your first point of contact. If you have an employee representative, such as a trade union official, they may be able to help you.
Your employer mustn't expose you to avoidable risks at work, and if you've pointed out risks without getting an answer, you can get confidential information from the HSE's or HSENI's infolines.
As a last resort, you can get in touch with the authority responsible for enforcing health and safety in your workplace (either the HSE/HSENI or your local authority). Health and safety inspectors have powers to enforce the law.
If you take this course of action, your employer mustn't discipline you or put you at a disadvantage in your job (e.g. by not paying you for the time you refused to work because of unsafe conditions, passing you over for promotion, etc). For more information, see our '' section.
For any advice on health and safety at work, consult the(or )