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22nd March, 2019

How To Report Health And Safety Concerns

The best health and safety management is proactive. It controls hazards and minimises risks. It gives people a safe place to work. It prevents harm from occurring. But what if you find a hazard that hasn't been controlled. If you feel you, or others might be at risk?

If you are worried about something, it helps to speak up. Reporting your concerns means they can be addressed. Problems can be fixed. Accidents can be avoided.

It's not possible to remove all risks completely. Sometimes, we have to react to problems. Reactive health and safety management deals with problems before they get out of hand. By reporting a problem, you can help get it sorted. That protects you, and others too!

Health and safety concerns at work

If you have a health and safety concern at work, don't stay silent. Your boss isn't a mind reader, they need your help to notice when there is a problem. As an employee, you have health and safety responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to report dangers to health and safety.

(2) Every employee shall inform his employer or any other employee of that employer with specific responsibility for the health and safety of his fellow employees—

  1. of any work situation which a person with the first-mentioned employee’s training and instruction would reasonably consider represented a serious and immediate danger to health and safety; and
  2. of any matter which a person with the first-mentioned employee’s training and instruction would reasonably consider represented a shortcoming in the employer’s protection arrangements for health and safety

Report to your supervisor

The first step you can take is to report to your supervisor. Let them know what you are worried about, and why. They should be able to show you the risk assessment, perhaps even involve you in improving it. If they feel that the work is safe, they should be able to explain the controls in place, and how are adequate to control the risks.

If you are still worried or feel that your supervisor hasn't taken your concerns seriously, report to your health and safety manager, or directly to your employer.

Employers also have health and safety responsibilities. They must make sure that your work can be carried out safely.

(1)It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

Submit a written report

Many workplaces have a formal reporting system for health and safety concerns, near misses or dangerous situations. Even if yours doesn't, putting your concerns in writing can help make sure any issues get resolved.

If you spot a hazard or witness a near miss, you should submit a near miss report. Not every workplace has a formal system in place, but you can use this free near miss report template to get started. Near miss reporting has many benefits, the biggest being, it stops accidents before they happen!

Once you have submitted your report, you should expect to hear back on what action has been taken, and why. Not all risks need to be addressed right away, they are usually prioritised. Anything high risk should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

Report to union or health and safety representative

Some workers are represented by unions. If your employer recognises a trade union, safety representatives are appointed. A safety representative will be able to give you confidential help and advice with health and safety concerns or complaints.

Not every workplace has this, but it may be available to you in larger organisations or particular industries.

Report to the HSE

If none of the above resolves the issue, you may want to report your concerns to an enforcing authority. If you think health and safety laws are being broken, putting you or others at risk of serious harm, you can report your concerns to the HSE (or the local authority).

Reporting concerns to the HSE can be done through an online form or via telephone. They will take your details but you can ask them not to disclose this to your employer if you don't want them to.

We use the information you tell us to assess if it’s something we should look into. If it is, then we will take up the problem you report with the company by contacting them by phone, writing or a site visit.

The HSE will assess your report within 24 hours, and let you know what action they are taking within 21 days. HSE inspectors have a range of powers in terms of inspecting premises and stopping work, if necessary.

Health and safety concerns outside work

Employers don't just need to protect their employees, but anyone who may be affected by their work. If you are worried or concerned about health and safety, you should report your concerns. It may save a life, or stop someone getting hurt.

100 Members of the public were killed due to work related activities in 2017/18

It may surprise you to know that nearly as many members of the public were killed due to work-related activities, as workers. Over 40% of fatal injuries were to members of the public.

fatal injuries 17/18
HSE Fatal Injury Statistics 17/18

Report to the business

Your first step can be to report the health and safety issue or concern to the business involved. It might be obvious who this is, for example, if you are in their premises. It might also not be so obvious, for example, if some workers are working remotely and there are no signs or they don't wear a uniform.

The business should take any concerns seriously. They may advise you how and why the situation is safe, and the controls in place. Or they might need to take action to resolve any issues.

Report to the HSE

You don't have to be an employee to report a health and safety concern to the HSE. Just like employees, members of the public can also report to the HSE if they think that health and safety laws are being broken, and there is a serious risk of harm.

If you see something in a workplace that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it.

While the HSE might be the first enforcing authority to spring to mind, they are not the only one. They cover many workplaces, like construction sites, factories, farms, schools and hospitals. But other enforcing authorities are responsible for enforcing health and safety in different types of workplaces.

For example, if you have an issue or concern in a restaurant, shop or hotel, you should contact the local authority. And the office of rail and road (ORR) covers railway safety.

Remember, this is for reporting health and safety concerns. If an accident has already happened, you may also need to report under RIDDOR.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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