This week is European Week for Health and Safety at Work 2014 and is a timely reminder of the important role that HR professionals can play in ensuring that health and safety issues are given appropriate priority within an organisation.
The focus of this year's Health and Safety Week is work related stress, which continues to be an increasing issue for employers both in terms of absence but also potential civil liability. The focus on this issue is a reminder of the need to ensure that health and safety policies and, more importantly, risk assessments take account not just of risks to safety but of occupational health issues.
Furthermore, it is essential that health and safety policies and procedures are properly policed and appropriately enforced using, where appropriate, disciplinary processes. The importance of the proper management of health and safety was recognised by the EAT in the case of Northern Diver International Limited v Ward (UK EAT/0349/13/SM) in the summer of this year. The EAT upheld a dismissal on the grounds of failing to give proper heed to health and safety requirements.
Given the provisions within the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which put under scrutiny a company's health and safety "culture", very careful consideration needs to be given by employers to disciplinary processes when it comes to health and safety failings.