Everyone has a duty of care, a responsibility, to make sure that they and other people are safe in the workplace. It means that individuals should always act in the best interest of themselves and others, not act in a way that can result in harm to themselves and act in a way you are competent to do so. In the workplace, the employer has the main responsibility for the health and safety of everyone in their workplace, including visitors. They have a ‘primary duty of care’.
At work, managers also have a duty of care. This means that they should take reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of all employees, customers, and site visitors. This can be a key factor in building trust and reinforcing their commitment to employees improving staff retention, boosting productivity, and can pave the way for greater employee engagement.
Demonstrating concern for the physical and mental health of your workers should not just be a legal duty – you should care for them as you would your family.
Legally, employers must abide by relevant health and safety and employment law, as well as the common law duty of care. They also have a moral and ethical duty not to cause, or fail to prevent physical or psychological injury and must fulfill their responsibilities regarding personal injury and negligence claims.
All employees and site visitors have an additional legal responsibility to keep themselves and their co-workers safe from harm. Take a read of our Understanding Workplace Health and Safety blog for more information.
Exercising Duty of Care:
We are all required to exercise ‘reasonably practicable’ care – This means that a duty holder must meet the standard of behaviour expected of a reasonable person in the duty holder’s position and who is required to comply with the same duty.
It takes into account what the person ought to reasonably know and what was reasonably foreseeable by someone in the position of the duty holder at the particular time. Simply speaking, we all have a duty of care to keep other people safe, protecting them from harm and bad situations, whether it’s caused by themselves or others. Of course, we aren’t just talking about a moral obligation. Having a duty of care is a legal obligation too.
Ways a Duty of Care Can Be Exercised:
Requirements under an employer’s duty of care are wide-ranging and may be expressed in many ways, such as:
- Clearly defining employee roles, jobs, and assignments.
- Ensuring a safe work environment for all people.
- Providing adequate training and feedback on performance.
- Ensuring that staff do not, normally, work excessive hours without due reason.
- Providing areas for rest and relaxation.
- Protecting staff from bullying or harassment, from either colleagues or third parties.
- Protecting staff from discrimination.
- Providing communication channels for employees to raise concerns.
- Consulting and reviewing with employees on issues that concern them.
- Produce quality products and provide best services to customers.
- Take measures to avoid pollution to the environment.
- Comply with all laws and regulations
Building Policies and Procedures
Having policies and procedures documented for Duty of Care in the workplace is an important step reinforcing and clarifying the expectations each organisation has of its employees. An effective policy should include:
- Referenced legislation.
- The purpose of the policy and why Duty of Care is important.
- Who the policy applies to.
- The objectives of the business in relation to Duty of Care and WH&S
- Policy Implementation.
- Your workplace culture.
- What happens when the policy is breached
Keep in mind that when decisions need to be made quickly, you will need to consider the guidelines that have been set down by your organisation and wherever possible, balance these against your own instinctive reactions.
Taking the necessary steps in your business to ensure all individuals receive the relevant training and information on Duty of Care in the workplace can promote best practice, minimise risk, and create a sustainably safe work environment.
To see further how dita Solutions can help you implement effective manager and supervisor inductions that provide quality training on Duty of Care, contact us here.
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Download our free and customisable Policy Design Template. Our Template provides step by step instructions to help you get started with writing your own Policies for your business.