Assigning health and safety responsibilities across the business

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Many businesses struggle with ownership when it comes to the management of health and safety at work regulations.

Whilst everyone in an organisation has responsibility for health and safety at law, if this isn't understood and the responsibilities of each role clearly defined, then this can lead to dysfunction in the process - things will fall between the cracks.

Not every business appreciates that everybody has a responsibility for Health and Safety, that;  

  • If you are responsible for an area of operation you are responsible for safety within it.
  • If you are an employee you have a responsibility to comply with the businesses H&S policies and procedures.

This should make Health and Safety easy to implement and manage, shouldn't it?

This lack of understanding often starts with the Leadership Team and then filters down through to Senior Management. It can be seen as the responsibility of the Health and Safety Person,

"it's not my job, I'm here to get orders out the door!"

If the Health and Safety Person doesn't have management control of a physical space or the people working in it, how can they be? They will often find themselves fighting against other priorities and what we have is a dysfunctional health and safety organisation.

But even if the Leadership Team have clarity, if senior, middle and junior management don't have clarity around their role:

  • knowing exactly what is expected of them,
  • the competency to execute it, 
  • the resources to execute it, and
  • how there role and responsibility interacts with the overall process,

how can they be expected to perform a management duty? Once again dysfunction.

To address this some organisations outsource to an external Competent Person, however this changes none of the above and can compound the issue even further - read more here.

And if Health and Safety has "negative" messaging within the business culture and language, there is a chance people will want to avoid being responsible for an activity where is low leadership support for it.

Creating Clarity

One way to address this is by defining the Health and Safety responsibilities against the organisational structure, as shown below.

This allows everyone to understand their respective responsibilities and how they interact with one another, exactly what is required of them individually and collectively.  

It also allows you to identify gaps in capability and knowledge so they can be filled. It can be daunting to be given responsibility for something which you have little knowledge and understanding, the implications of which can be serious for both the business and employees. Understandably, this can generate resistance in the individual, and a lack of management around health and safety at work regulations.

It also allows for the process to considered and likewise any gaps identified and dealt with.

As you can see in the diagram below this doesn't just stop at the basics - Risk Assessments, Safety Checks and Training, it also includes how the process is managed (i.e. KPI reporting, overseeing the completion of corrective action etc).

And it also creates accountability. "People focus on what the boss can see", but it also means the boss is accountable to his reports as their role and responsibility is clearly defined.


If your Health and Safety Management system can report on performance then this creates the visibility around accountability. This will also create a framework that allows for objectives and KPIs to be set, on which the Health and Safety Management system can report.

More information on Health and Safety responsibilities

For more guidance on health and safety consultancy, get in touch with our team for a discussion.

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