Organising for safety


Establishing responsibilities and relationships within the workplace is a very important part of securing safe working practices, and promoting a culture of safety.

To secure and maintain a safe workplace, employers need to ensure that everyone from senior management to individual employees is aware of their responsibilities for safety, and acts accordingly.


The Four Cs

To help create a positive safety culture, remember 'the 4 Cs':

  • Control
  • Communication
  • Co-operation
  • Competence


There are three key aspects to establishing control over safety in the workplace.

1. Take Overall Responsibility

Employers need to take responsibility for safety, and demonstrate their commitment. For example:

  • By holding regular (weekly, monthly) safety meetings with employees or their safety representatives.
  • By making regular and noticeable tours of the workplace, including inspections of vehicles, roadways and infrastructure.
  • By ensuring that formal or informal discussions about work with employees always include references to safety.
  • An accident reporting system is essential to enable employers to meet their legal obligations to report some accidents.
    • A clear and simple procedure for reporting faults and hazards can help prevent serious accidents.
    • It is also valuable in monitoring how effective your safety measures are, and ensuring that all accidents are reported to managers.
    • It is important that managers do not use the accident reporting system to apportion blame as this may discourage employees from using it.

2. Allocate Specific Responsibilities

A clear allocation of responsibilities is needed so that all everyone understands their health and safety responsibilities. There are various ways of achieving this, for example by:

  • Including safety responsibilities in an employee's job description, and in contracts with contractors.
  • Including safety issues and responsibilities in the induction of new employees, or when you get a new supplier etc.
  • Displaying safety notices or bulletins

3. Enforce Compliance

Management needs to ensure that everyone at work is held accountable for his or her actions (primarily through supervision), and that there is some form of penalty if they fail to comply.

  • Supervision is an essential part of monitoring safety at work.
    • The level of supervision should reflect the how serious the risks are, and how competent employees are to avoid them.
    • Even where risks are low, some supervision will always be needed.
  • The employer, manager, etc., will usually need to have a clear penalty system, in case anyone does not comply.
    • For employees there is usually a disciplinary procedure with the possibility, ultimately, of dismissal.
    • For contractors there may be financial penalties and/or terminating their contract.
  • Allowing specific people to operate certain vehicles, or to undertake vehicle-related activities such as maintenance, can help employers or managers control risks.


Good communication within an organisation helps secure and maintain a safe workplace.

It is important to have strong lines of communication, so that everyone is clear about their responsibilities, and so that any changes spread quickly across the whole organisation.

Information that needs to be communicated includes:

  • The organisation's safety policy, and what it means in practical terms.
  • The allocation of safety responsibilities.
  • How people should work safely.
  • Where people can get more information.
  • Feedback to employees on how well they have complied with safety policy.

Everyone in the workplace, including contractors, should be encouraged to take an active interest in safety issues. Everyone should be given the chance to express views or concerns.

Where there are trade union appointed safety representatives, employers have specific duties to consult with them, and to set up a Health and Safety committee if two or more safety representatives request one.


Employees have a legal duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do at work.

Employees also have a legal duty to co-operate with their employers, to enable them to comply with their health and safety responsibilities.

A Health & Safety Committee can be an effective way of enlisting the formal participation and co-operation of everyone in the workplace in carrying out their Health & Safety responsibilities.


Employers need to be sure that all everyone is capable of doing their work in a proper way (ie one that ensures their own safety and that of other people).

In a large organisation, senior management need to be satisfied that subordinate managers and supervisors are capable of organising a safe workplace. They need to be able to:

  • Establish control over risks.
  • Communicate effectively to maintain a flow of information about safety, in both directions.
  • Obtain co-operation from those for whom they are responsible.
  • Allocate and organise activity in a safe way.

Employers need to ensure wherever possible that people are working in a safe and responsible way.

This is likely to include checking any licences, certificates and knowledge, capabilities, and general fitness for tasks they need to do (for example, are they completely sober and in control?).

Those in charge will need to be capable and willing to communicate safety advice and constructive feedback to employees etc., on their safety performance.

There are two principal ways of ensuring competence for a job:

  • At recruitment and placement, have effective checks to ensure that everyone (including managers) has the relevant knowledge, experience etc., to be capable of doing their jobs safely, or can get these the doing the job or through training. Where necessary, the procedures may require:
    • Medical examinations;
    • Aptitude and ability tests; and/or
    • Recognised qualifications or training certificates to be held by employees.
  • Provide information, instruction and training to maintain or improve employees' competence, particularly where changes in staff, equipment or procedures are planned. This should take into account the abilities and experience of the employee.

Proper management and supervision is needed to ensure that the competence of employees, contractors, etc., is maintained and developed.

Contractors and subcontractors

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Where contractors or sub-contractors are employed, the site operator or principal employer should make sure that their activities fit in with the overall work scheme, without increasing risks unduly.

The person responsible for the site will need to provide the contractor with appropriate Health & Safety information in relation to the work to be carried out, so that the work can be done safely.

  • For example information about:
    • The workplace
    • The routes to be used
    • The vehicles and equipment on site
    • Specific hazards
    • Other people on site, including other contractors, visiting drivers, etc.

The person responsible for the site should check the suitability of the contractor and, through the contractor, any sub-contractor, in terms of Health & Safety standards. Check for example:

  • That the contractor selects and trains employees to the required standards and that they are suitably competent.
  • That, on previous contracts, the contractor has complied worked safely. Where possible, check the contractor's accident and ill-health record.
  • That any vehicles used by the contractor in the workplace are suitable for the job and are properly maintained throughout the contract.
    • Some employers inspect contractors' vehicles before allowing them to operate on site, others insist on a mechanic's inspection report covering essential safety components.
    • It may also be necessary to carry out spot checks to ensure that vehicles remain safe until the work is finished.
  • The contractor will also need to be made fully aware of the penalties of unsafe working.
    • It may be necessary to ensure that compliance with good Health & Safety practice, and with any specific site regulations, is included as a contract requirement. This may also help clarify the penalties for a breach of safe working practice (ie making unsafe working a breach of contract).
    • It is important to maintain a system of supervision of the contractor's work.
  • Informal licensing can be a useful way of controlling how contractors and sub-contractors work.
    • For example, licences to operate on site are issued for specified periods. They are only renewed if contractors have behaved properly.
  • When a contractor takes on a sub-contractor, the contractor can clearly use similar checks and supervision to exercise control over their actions. The site operator will usually need evidence that adequate controls over sub-contractors are in place.
  • Despite these precautions, contractors should be in no doubt that they are responsible for their own employees.

Visiting drivers

Some of the checks and procedures outlined above for contractors will also apply to visiting drivers.

It is important to make sure that visiting drivers are aware of the layout of the workplace, the route they need to take, and relevant procedures for safe working, for example about parking and unloading.

  • Take account of the fact that delivery drivers may visit the site rarely, and may only be on site for a short time.
  • Drivers should not have to go anywhere that could be dangerous to move to or from their vehicles, or places they need to go (for example if they need access to lavatory and washing facilities).

The employer at a workplace should liaise and co-operate with the employers of visiting drivers, to co-ordinate the measures that need to be taken for everyone to comply with their Health & Safety responsibilities. For example:

  • To provide safe access to a vehicle for loading or unloading.
  • To provide suitable equipment, for example for drivers delivering at retail outlets to unload safely.
  • To ensure that vehicles and the ground they have to use are suitable for safe working.

Shared premises

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The law requires any employers (including self-employed people) sharing a workplace to co-operate, co-ordinate and share information to help ensure a safe workplace.

Everyone needs to satisfy themselves that they complying with their legal duties.

Normally the site operator, or a main employer, controls the worksite, and in such cases will take need to take responsibility for co-ordinating Health & Safety measures:

  • Primarily through discussion, and by obtaining information from the smaller employers.
  • By seeking their agreement to site-wide arrangements, whether new or established.
  • All other employers have a responsibility to co-operate.

Where there is no employer in overall control, individual employers and self-employed people will need to find a way of agreeing joint arrangements, for example by appointing a Health & Safety Supervisor or Co-ordinator, or establishing a Health & Safety Committee.

  • Appointing a Health & Safety Supervisor or Co-ordinator is likely to be the most effective way of:
    • Ensuring co-operation and co-ordination
    • Exchanging information efficiently, to enable all employers to comply with their Health & Safety duties.
  • However joint arrangements are made, everyone on the site should support and comply with any resulting procedures or regulations. Clear penalties for failing to do so should be established as soon as possible, and should be enforced in some way.

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