Everyone has the right to return home from work each day in a healthy state.  The new Health and Safety at Work Act will come into effect in April.  It will entail developing a coordinated and cooperative approach where the duties and obligations of the business leader interact with the participation and engagement of the work force.  It will provide a framework to enable businesses to manage their health and safety responsibility.  This will be equally as relevant for small businesses as large.


The new act is based around the principles that employers have legal responsibilities to provide safe work environments for their workers, that workers obviously have a responsibility for a safe workplace and government agencies have a role to oversee workplace safety guidelines and perform inspections to enforce them.  The aim is a law that is flexible enough to work for small and large businesses and high-risk and low-risk sectors, without imposing unnecessary compliance costs.  Obligations are placed on people in the workforce who create the risk and are best able to manage the risk: namely, health and safety monitors and others who manage or control workplaces.  It translates to job descriptions spelling out workers’ responsibilities clearly and in written form.


From a business perspective as well as the prescriptive legislative framework that will now be provided, it is important to remember that there is another type of workplace responsibility and that is self-responsibility.  Self-responsibility refers to each worker, employer and manager.  It means that everyone in a business needs to take equal responsibility for their own actions outside of normal job duties.  Self-responsibility is related to accountability, which requires everyone in a business to accept a role and responsibility for their own health and safety environment, to accept blame for their errors or omissions, and acknowledge the contributions and role of others.


It comes down to the overall culture within the business.  Accountability is especially important within a business’ leadership.  These people need to set a positive workplace culture based on self-responsibility as a core part of the work team environment.  At the end of the day, legislation can get a business only so far.  A culture of self-responsibility creates a mutual environment based on recognition that everyone in a firm shares and has responsibilities to one another and themselves.


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