My workplace is unsafe, what can I do?
A common question I frequently get is from people worried about unsafe workplaces. This week alone, I have received four queries from friends and family alone. All of them have asked me,” my workplace is unsafe what can I do?” That’s not including members of the public and other businesses. Many people are worried that they will get in trouble with their employer if they speak about their safety concerns. This article guides you on what to do if you feel your workplace is unsafe.
Do your research
Find out about what you and your employer’s legal health and safety responsibilities are.
- You can check your employer’s in-house policies, training and guidance.
- There are helpful websites such as the HSE, various unions and even industry-specific sites too.
Once you have done your research, you can speak with more confidence about the issues with your manager or supervisor.
Speak to your employer
- If you feel you are in an unsafe workplace or asked to do risky things then you need to raise it.
- Speak to your manager first or if you can’t speak to them, find the person who is responsible for health and safety in your company.
- You can speak to your safety or union representatives, n.b. you may be required to join the union for them to deal with the issue.
- Always keep the conversation calm; it may be that your employer is not aware of the problem or their legal responsibilities.
Raising a grievance about an unsafe workplace.
The next step you could take is to raise a grievance.
- A grievance is a formal procedure under employment law to give workers the right.
- It’s a good idea that you try and speak with your employer first before doing this. It may come as a nasty shock to them if they’re not aware of the issues that are worrying you.
- Here is a useful link to the citizen’s advice bureau about raising a grievance LINK
Reporting to the Health and Safety Executive or Environmental Health at your council.
There is the option to inform the enforcement body relevant to your industry: They are usually the Health and Safety Executive or the Environmental Health department at your local council.
I recommend that you only do this if you are not getting a response or action from your employer.
To find out who you need to contact check out the HSE page Correct enforcement link The HSE and other enforcement agencies have contact numbers and emails for you to report your concern.
What do I report to the enforcement authority?
You need to provide them with as much information as possible about the unsafe workplace. Here is a list of things to include that can help.
- Details about the hazard and risks
- Near Misses
- Why you feel your employer is not providing a safe working environment.
- Who is carrying out the activity or could be in danger?
- Anything else relevant
While it may not be the HSE that you need to report to, they do have an in-depth form that can help you collate the information to assist an enforcement authority. Please remember if you use the forms headings, but the HSE is not the correct authority, don’t submit it to them. HSE reporting form
Can I refuse to work if my workplace is unsafe?
In a nutshell, yes!
Can my employer fire me for whistleblowing?
No, when you report safety concerns to an enforcement body, you are protected by UK legislation from being sacked.
Please check out the government guidance on whistleblowing and what your legal rights are. Whistleblowing Guidance. If you do get fired, then your employer may be opening themselves up to further legal action.
Legislation protecting workers
Here are links to the two main pieces of legislation that protect workers.
- If you feel your workplace is unsafe, speak to your company straight away. If you don’t experience an accident, then your next colleague might.
- Do your research, find out what precautions should be in place.
- Communicate your concerns in a written and professional way. Your complaint should be reasonable, and you should clearly state the reasons you feel the workplace is unsafe.
- Whistleblowing is the last resort, and it is also anonymous. You are also protected by UK law against action by your employer.
- If you feel something is unsafe, you can leave the workplace or refuse to carry out the activity.
- Only in cases where there is imminent danger do we suggest to stop work immediately, then speak to your manager straight away.
I hope this article has helped, there are a ton of resources available on the internet and probably within your own company.
Here are some link to some useful sites.