World Day for Safety and Health at Work (28 April), first observed in 2003, represents an international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent working conditions around the globe. Whilst each territory and nation will have its own specific regulations and expectations about how the safety of workers can be best maintained, this international event signifies the ambition to go even further on occupational safety and health at work; protecting those who are most at risk from accidents and diseases.
The UK is a founding member of the International Labour Organisation and our own Health and Safety Executive fully supports the promotion of this day of awareness raising, by publishing materials and case studies to support the need for further reform and improvement of working practices. It is often tempting to conclude that the focus of this event should be placed on developing countries and improving working practices within those nations for workers most at risk. However, it is recognised that every jurisdiction around the globe still has a great deal more to do to improve workers' safety particularly in light of new and emerging threats to safety at work.
The International Labour Organisation does more than simply promote a specific day for the recognition of the importance of safety and health at work. Alongside this work, it engages with national and regional safety bodies to develop and improve conventions and frameworks for occupational safety and health. In the UK, the ILO works regularly with the HSE to consider and develop the guidelines in place for occupational health and safety system in force here. Given that the HSE has a specific and statutory responsibility for investigating deaths and serious accidents at work, it is important that the policies promoted by them are best placed to mitigate risks faced by those carrying out their duties. Although there are a number of industry specific guidelines to deal with the many variants of work type carried out in the UK, a helpful overall guide to health and safety regulations in the UK is the 2013 HSE Health and Safety Regulations. This document provides a broad overview of the HSE roles, corresponding responsibilities of Local Authorities and ministerial departments. It also provides an overview of the scope and limits of the responsibilities of the HSE and any specific rules or exceptions applicable to the devolved nations of Scotland and Wales. The 2013 guide also deals with the enforcement of HSE rules and sets out the powers that HSE has to investigate and prosecute breaches of relevant health and safety regulations which may have been disregarded, intentionally or otherwise, resulting in death or serious injury.
The fundamental aim of the World Day for Health and Safety at Work is to promote and protect the welfare of employees around the globe. It should also serve as a useful and timely reminder that threats to safety at work are not fixed nor static; they are emerging and as such new regulations require to be introduced to deal with the ever changing scenarios. Employers in the UK have specific duties to protect the welfare of those in their employment and the consequences of failing to do so do not end with a HSE investigation and a potential criminal prosecution. Employers who have failed to uphold or enforce relevant health and safety legislation and regulations often face litigation from current or former employees. Every day across the UK, cases are raised in Court against employers who have failed to observe relevant legislation, HSE guidance or indeed even their own internal processes where, as a result, an employee has been injured or they have lost their life. It is always better to be fully aware of the obligations placed on employers and to take steps to ensure these obligations are complied with at every level within the company or organisation, than to risk the safety of your workforce. Mitigation of risk is always the best approach to ensuring that accidents are avoided, and the prospect of litigation or prosecution is reduced as far as possible.
If you want to discuss anything relating to injuries in the workplace please feel free to contact our personal injury team on 0131 247 1000 or through our personal injury compensation enquiry form.
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