Duty Of Care In The Workplace: 7 Tips For Corporate Leaders. Employers have both the legal and moral obligation to the people who work for them to provide a safe workplace and to prioritize their staff’s health and wellbeing. This is called a “duty of care”.
Actual laws around duty of care in the workplace differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in general, employees must avoid hazards in the workplace including physical ones, as well as bullying and stress.
Failure to observe a duty of care in the workplace can lead to staff becoming injured, or worse, they could die. Your company could also be liable for penalties from government regulators for failing to discharge a duty of care. And employees or their family members who feel that the duty of care has been neglected could sue for damages.
Additionally, your corporate reputation could be damaged: you could lose lots of good employees, be unable to attract great people to work for your organization, and your reputation with customers and other stakeholders could be left irreparably damaged.
Internal communication has a very important role in helping with the duty of care in the workplace. Good internal communications can help you to build awareness around risks in the workplace, deliver information to your staff if there is an issue and support them to speak up when there are issues to report.
Research from Staffbase found that companies that are effective at delivering safety information to employees can lower workplace accidents and reduce the cost of occupational illnesses and injuries by 31%.
Tips for embedding duty of care in the workplace
Communicate your policies, Tips For Corporate Leaders.
It’s important that you have policies around workplace health and safety that outline your obligations about the duty of care as an employer, and also what responsibilities individual employees have in ensuring that your workplace is safe.
The policy should be written in plain language so that it is easy for everyone to understand.
It should also be easily located by any employee who would like to find it – so think carefully about where it lives in your on your intranet site.
Ensure managers are consistent and accountable in communication
One manager may be skilled at it. Another may not. One manager may prioritize it. Another may not. This can have negative outcomes for the business for many reasons, including if you have managers that don’t communicate safety issues very well which could lead your company to fail in its duty of care towards the staff.
Set clear expectations for managers about how they should communicate with the staff. You can give them guides about frequency, tone, and style to ensure consistency in the company.
Managers should also be trained and made aware of their role when it comes to duty of care – especially around employees speaking up about hazards.
Give employees a voice, Tips For Corporate Leaders.
This can be because they don’t have the confidence to speak up, or because they fear reprisals from colleagues or managers if they do.
You may not be able to develop an in-house culture that prioritizes safety overnight, but this is something you should aim for – so that employees who want to speak up can feel safe and supported in doing so.
Hold workshops and forums where staff can speak together to talk about safety and identify any issues. Also, implement systems that allow individual employees to raise issues and concerns confidentially.
Deliver meaningful communication continuously.
Workplace safety communication isn’t something you can do once, and then say you’ve done it. As part of your duty of care as an employer, you should get frequent communications to your staff with relevant safety info.
Like any successful communication initiative, using a variety of tools and channels can help to reinforce these messages. For example, you can create web content, videos, podcasts, meetings, video conferences, blog posts, posters, newsletter content, digital signage displays, face-to-face meetings, and corporate social media content where workplace safety is the central theme.
Train your staff, Tips For Corporate Leaders.
Your staff should be familiar with workplace health and safety from their very first day. Whether they work with chemicals and need to know the right procedures, or if they’re in an office and need to be familiar with escape routes, you should ensure they are provided with the info they need to be safe, and to ensure the safety of the others.
It shouldn’t stop on the first day. Workplace health and safety training should be ongoing. Create video content and test your staff’s knowledge. Holding drills and running emergency scenarios. Send hints, tips, and reminders to reinforce the training that the staff has undertaken.
Invest in an emergency alert system, Tips For Corporate Leaders.
Many different emergencies can befall an organization that is completely out of your hands as an employer… but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a duty of care to alert your employees so they can take appropriate actions to remain safe.
This can include fires, floods, gas leaks, chemical spills, active shooters, acts of terrorism, earthquakes, hurricanes, severe storms, tsunamis, and other natural disasters.
With an emergency notification system, you can let all affected employees quickly know about the situation and provide them with information on what they should do, for example, evacuate or shelter in place.
Hold workplace health and safety events for employees, Tips For Corporate Leaders.
Catered events in work time can be a good way to break the ice and get people to talk about mental health, stress, physical hazards, and so on, to understand what supports are available and know where to go and what to do if they identify a risk.
Strengthening safety communication within your job is one of the best steps you can take in your duty as an employer, with plenty to be gained.
By giving your staff the skills they need to identify risks and to understand what to do when there is an emergency.