Employee Experience

Enhancing Workplace Safety: The Role of HR

4 Mins read

It’s no exaggeration to say that human resources professionals influence every aspect of their companies’ business. Workplace safety is no exception, but what exactly is the role of HR teams in ensuring employees’ protection at work? In this article, we take a closer look at the roles and responsibilities of HR teams to securing employee well-being. We’ll also consider how companies can evolve the contribution their human resources teams are making to further enhance safety at work. 

Human Resources and Safety Compliance

Mention human resources, and most people think about recruitment, managing employee contracts, administering payroll, or organizing training programs. Dealing with conflict between employees and managers may also come to mind, as well as handling redundancies. 

First and foremost, however, HR teams are responsible for employee safety and well-being. In smaller businesses, this close connection is often obvious as HR and workplace safety teams are combined. Larger businesses may choose to separate these roles into individual teams, whereas others may ask their HR and safety teams to work closely together. Very small businesses may ask their HR manager to take care of workplace safety as part of their role. 

While the scope of the role may vary, most human resources professionals closely involve themselves in ensuring employee safety at work. This starts with understanding which governmental and industry regulations the business needs to comply with. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is one of the bodies that publish specific standards detailing which rules and regulations employers need to follow. 

Many companies assign the combined HR and safety teams the responsibility of ensuring that employees know which standards apply to them and what protections they are afforded under those regulations.

Developing Bespoke Safety Policies and Procedures

Although they are industry-specific, few OSHA safety standards and regulations are specific enough for companies to use them without alteration. In fact, many HR and workplace safety teams look upon standards set by governmental agencies as the foundation on which they build their own customized standards and procedures. 

Developing company-specific safety policies may involve interpreting generic standards or adapting them to suit situations that are more relevant to a certain business. Without this interpretation and specification, the standards may seem ambiguous or simply unsuitable for the exact circumstances of the business. 

HR professionals are often part of the team customizing workplace safety standards and developing company-specific procedures. Even if human resources professionals are not the main authors of these policies, their knowledge of individual job roles and responsibilities makes their input invaluable. 

To ensure adherence and following of standards and policies, they must be relevant. As a result, the process of adapting these standards is critical to their implementation. Simply put, if employees cannot recognize their job roles in the workplace procedures they are being asked to follow, they are unlikely to adopt those procedures. A lack of adoption of policies and procedures makes it more difficult to grow a safety culture within the company. 

Incident Response and Reporting: Why HR’s Role is Vital in Handling Accidents

Even with the strongest workplace safety measures in place, accidents, injuries, and illnesses can happen at work. Strong preventative safety measures, including training, will lower the incident rate but can rarely eliminate them completely. 

As a consequence, businesses need equally strong procedures to deal with adverse events. Human resources teams may not be involved in dealing with the medical side of handling accidents and incidents unless team members are trained first aiders. However, your HR team is essential in dealing with other, more indirect aspects of workplace incidents. 

HR professionals may find themselves organizing an employee’s return to work after an accident or an injury, for example. This could involve developing a strategy for a staged return to work, starting with a few days every week or shorter hours and lighter responsibilities. 

At an organizational level, HR teams often take care of monitoring the frequency of accidents to identify potential patterns. For example, if accidents are more likely to happen to one specific team compared to others, there may be a need for additional workplace safety training. 

Workplace safety training is essential when workers are spending time in remote locations and even more so if they’re on their own. In those scenarios, HR may consider creating specific lone-worker safety policies and issuing bespoke gear to allow employees to call for help if they become injured or unwell. 

workplace safety 2

How HR’s Contribution to Enhanced Safety is Evolving

Enhancing workplace safety is essential to the health and well-being of employees. However, the health of the overall business is also at stake. A company that develops a reputation for having a high volume of accidents or a bad safety record, will soon struggle to recruit top talent. Even before that, HR professionals may notice a higher-than-usual turnover as staff is looking for employment elsewhere. 

Developing this type of reputation not only affects recruitment. In time, it can trigger a decline in sales as customers choose to do business with a company that has a better track record of prioritizing safety. How can HR prevent this decline or reverse the trend? The answer depends on how your HR and your safety team are connected. 

In small businesses, one person may cover HR and workplace safety responsibilities, making them responsible for developing training programs and other procedures to enhance workplace safety. HR personnel may also possess the authority to hire safety-conscious individuals for key leadership roles. These leaders will help set examples for the rest of the team and strengthen the company’s overall safety culture. 

Final Thoughts

Human resources professionals influence every aspect of a business. The HR department has responsibilities that include hiring key personnel, retaining existing team members, and preparing effective training schedules. When it comes to workplace safety, HR’s role ranges from recruiting safety-conscious individuals to handling incidents. Also, as well as actively working to minimize the likelihood of accidents in the workplace. In combination, these varied responsibilities contribute toward building a business’s reputation as an employer who cares about its people and its bottom line. 

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