Health and safety leadership


This British Safety Council guide is for directors and managers. It examines leadership in the context of health and safety, giving insight into the way in which directors can build a more effective and sustainable business.


It notes that health, safety and wellbeing messages must be reinforced and supported from the ground up if they are to be successful. Front-line supervisors, department heads and the chief executive officer all play a crucial role in ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of employees and others who could be put at risk – such as contractors, visitors to a site and members of the public.


Leaders are responsible for many aspects of health and safety management, and adequate management of workloads, supervision of staff, legal compliance, incident investigation and health, safety and wellbeing communication should be key duties. Leaders also have many opportunities to reinforce, inspire and support employees to achieve high health and safety performance in the workplace.


UK employers are responsible for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others – such as contractors and the public – who could be affected by the organisation’s work activities.


Under the law, an employer – including the organisation’s directors and senior officers – are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of:

  • Their employees and others who work for them, or on their behalf, in their premises, projects and business activities – such as contractors, temporary staff, agency workers and volunteers.

  • Other people working in or visiting the premises – for example, customers, members of the public, suppliers and visiting delivery drivers.

  • People outside the premises who could be put at risk – for example, passers-by who could be exposed to risks from moving vehicles or hazardous emissions.

  • Anyone affected by products or services that the organisation designs, produces or supplies.

UK health and safety law requires employers to put in place suitable arrangements to eliminate or reduce risks to people’s health and safety arising from their work activities, as far as is reasonably practicable.


UK health and safety law places duties on employers – and business owners, partners, directors and their equivalents, and managers, can be held legally liable if these duties are breached. If a health and safety offence is committed with the consent or connivance of – or is attributable to any neglect on the part of any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the organisation – then that person (as well as the organisation), can be prosecuted under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.


The guide talks further about:

  • Defining leadership.

  • Why leadership in health and safety is valuable to a business.

  • What does good OSH leadership look like.

  • Supervisors as OSH leaders.

  • Senior managers as OSH leaders.

  • Guidance on OSH leadership.

  • Translating leadership into practical steps.

  • Leadership in major hazard industries.

  • Employee wellbeing.

  • OSH leadership in construction.

  • Health and safety training for senior managers and directors.

  • Getting competent advice.

British Safety Council November 2022


Please see below for the full document:

Health and safety leadership
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