Is avoiding falls at work a personal responsibility of the employee? Partially it is, because if an employee acts in a reckless or deliberate manner with no regard to his safety or the safety of his colleagues and those actions are partially responsible for the accident and subsequent injury they sustain, any claim for compensation would have to take this, what is termed ‘contributory negligence’ into account, even if the working environment or equipment or machinery or lack of training also played a part in causing the accident. That said, in most personal injury compensation claims the responsibility for the accident is usually borne by the employer.
This weight of responsibility for an accident on the employer reflects the legal duty of care that employers have to ensure as far as possible, that no harm comes to their employees in the course of their employment. Essentially this means, in the case of preventing falls at work, ensuring that the working environment is tidy with no clutter, that floor surfaces are even and present no tripping hazard, that steps and stairs are fitted with secure handrails and guards, that lighting is adequate and that ladders and other machinery and equipment functions correctly and safely. They must also ensure that workers are kitted out with the appropriate personal protective equipment such as safety helmets and harnesses and footwear with non-slip soles.
This attention to making the working environment safe and providing safety equipment will all be for nought however, if the employer fails to adequately train their employers to safely carry out their jobs; to use and maintain their safety equipment appropriately and correctly, to understand the health and safety issues associated with those jobs, including awareness of the hazards they could potentially encounter and to make non-compliance with mandatory health and safety regulations a disciplinary offence where such compliance is included in job descriptions. For instance, a roofer would be trained in the assessing the structural integrity of a roof before placing his weight and that of his equipment upon it and warehouse workers would be made aware of the slip hazards presented by split liquids or grease on the floor, or carrying loads at height or over uneven surfaces.
To summarise; it is the combination of a safe workplace, adequate training and supervision and the personal responsibility of the individual employee that successfully results in the incidence of falls, and other accidents, being greatly reduced at work. Remove any of those ingredients to safe working and the workplace can once more take on the aspect of a hostile environment.
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