Out-Law Analysis | 20 May 2016 | 11:34 am | 2 min. read
Health and safety and employment law are related and those parts of an organisation should co-operate. In some situations, it may be appropriate for one profession to take the lead while the other plays a supporting role, while in others both sets of professionals will have different skills of equal importance. For example:
Recently the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that an employee had been fairly dismissed where he had misrepresented the extent of his injury and his capacity to return to work as a bus driver following a fall at work. In that dispute between Metroline West Ltd and Mr Ajaj the EAT upheld that taking sick leave when perfectly well demonstrates dishonesty and a fundamental breach of trust and confidence by an employee, and can amount to gross misconduct justifying summary dismissal.
This was fundamentally an HR case, but the facts arose from a workplace accident – so the potential for overlap between health and safety and HR functions existed at various stages. Ultimately, Metroline was entitled to dismiss Mr Ajaj as his dishonesty amounted to gross misconduct, regardless of his physical capability to sit down for long periods while working as a bus driver.
An organisation's safety culture can have a significant bearing on its overall safety performance. Influencing this for the better will take a variety of different forms, including leadership and direction from senior managers as well as effective worker engagement. However, fair and consistent enforcement of health and safety rules, policies and systems of work should also form part of the overall strategy for encouraging a more positive safety culture.
That said, enforcement of the rules – where employees know that the consequence of their actions might lead to disciplinary action of some sort – is only part of an employer's arsenal in improving behaviours and safety culture. On the flip side, employers shouldn't lose sight of the potential benefits from recognising and positively rewarding good safety performance, which can play an equally effective role in influencing employee attitudes and behaviours.
Kevin Bridges is a health and safety law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.