As we all know, welders face a number of hazards and dangers throughout their working lives. Luckily, most of these can be minimised, if not eliminated completely. To achieve this, it’s vital to understand who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace.
Of course, no one wants to see their co-workers or employees suffer an injury or accident while at work. While employers and employees have different legal responsibilities when it comes to health and safety, everyone has a role to play nonetheless.
In fact, it’s not really useful to think of health and safety as a specific person’s job. For one thing, this leads to the attitude that it’s someone else’s job, which creates unnecessary risk. Additionally, modern regulations mean that health and safety must be built into all elements of how a business operates.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how health and safety can be built into the day-to-day running of a welding business.
Welding: What is Health and Safety in the Workplace?
First thing’s first. Of course, it’s vital to understand the kinds of health and safety issues that professional welders face. Indeed, given the nature of the work, understanding health and safety in the workplace for welders can be a matter of life and death.
Essentially, welding hazards and risks fall into two broad categories:
- Immediate injuries – These are when an incident occurs, which immediately causes harm to someone. This can include burns, cuts, or any other kind of injury which is felt immediately. These might be temporary, or they may cause lasting damage.
- Long-term harm – This is damage which is done over a longer period of time, or which is not felt in the immediate term. For welders, common examples include long term hearing and vision loss, back injuries, and lung damage from exposure to gasses.
In extreme cases, any of these health and safety risks can cause life-altering damage to the victim. Of course, we’d all like to do our part to prevent this. With that in mind, let’s look at the specifics of who is responsible for health and safety in the workplace.
Health and Safety in the Workplace: Employers’ Responsibilities
In the workplace, it’s the employer who is primarily responsible for the health and safety of their workers and their customers. Indeed, business owners are legally required to ensure the safety of anyone who enters their premises.
This begins with understanding the specific risks associated with their line of work.
As such, the first health and safety requirement for employers is creating an in-depth risk assessment for their business. The goal of this is to decide what risks are present, who could be affected, and how these can be mitigated. As part of this process, employers are required to consult their employees on the risks they face.
The next step is for employers to create a written health and safety policy. This is a legal requirement for companies with five or more members of staff, but it is advisable for even the smallest of companies.
Under UK law, a proper health and safety policy has three parts:
- Your statement of intent, including what a business wants to achieve through their policy,
- The members of staff who have specific health and safety responsibilities, and what these responsibilities are,
- Practical details of how the goals of the health and safety will be met, including the methodology for your risk assessment, arrangements for training staff, and the equipment and procedures which will be used.
Once a health and safety policy has been drafted, employers are also responsible for ensuring that this is effectively implemented and communicated to staff. This includes everyone from managers to welding apprentices.
On the one hand, this involves creating training programs, to ensure that all staff members understand the policy. For welders, this may include what to do in the event of a fire, electrical incident or explosion. Training should also include how to use any and all welding equipment safely.
Employers should also provide clear and relevant health and safety information on posters around the workplace, as well as leaflets and other materials to ensure that employees have easy access to the health and safety information they need.
Who is Responsible for Purchasing Health and Safety Equipment?
Similarly, employers are required to provide all of the equipment their staff need to do their jobs safely. For welders, this includes a range of different kinds of equipment, such as:
- Proper tools and equipment,
- Appropriate work stations,
- Welding helmets,
- Dedicated welding PPE,
- Workwear, including work boots and necessary clothing,
- Respiratory and hearing protection,
- Adequate lighting,
- Cleaning materials,
- Fire safety equipment.
Despite what some unscrupulous employers may tell you, it is also not legal to leverage a charge on employees for safety equipment, or to deduct this from their wages. Similarly, it is not sufficient for the employer to simply have PPE on their premises.
Rather, they should put policies in place which ensure employees always have effective access to the PPE they need, whether they are at their normal place of work, or in the field.
Welding Health and Safety in the Workplace: Employees’ Role
Of course, without employee compliance, no health and safety policy would be effective. In fact, workers have a duty to take care of their own health and safety at work, as well as that of their colleagues.
This includes keeping up to date with their employer’s health and safety policies, as well as ensuring that they are implemented properly. One important element of this is engaging with the employer on what’s working and what isn’t.
For example, a company which employs specialist workers, like welders, might implement impractical health and safety policies, which are not feasible or prevent work being carried out.
Employees must inform their employees of this fact, and engage with them to find a workable solution for the business.
Additionally, workers often have a better insight into the risks they face than their boss. As such, if a worker finds a health and safety risk, or inadequate protection, then they are required to report this to senior management.
For example, welders are responsible for reporting defective or broken equipment to their employers, where this has the potential to cause an accident or injury. They should also report safety equipment which is not fit for purpose.
This includes informing an employer that PPE, such as safety boots, have worn out or torn.