Health and safety responsibilities for CEOs and directors


Effective health and safety performance comes from the top - members of the board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety.

Effective leadership

Directors and boards need to examine their own behaviours, both individually and collectively, against the guidance given. And, where they see that they fall short of the standards it sets them, to change what they do to become more effective leaders in health and safety

Take action

Why directors and board members need to act: 

  • protecting the health and safety of employees or members of the public who may be affected by your activities is an essential part of risk management and must be led by the board
  • failure to include health and safety as a key business risk in board decisions can have catastrophic results - many high-profile safety cases over the years have been rooted in failures of leadership
  • health and safety law places duties on organisations and employers, and directors can be personally liable when these duties are breached - members of the board have both collective and individual responsibility for health and safety

Essential principles

Strong leadership from the top

  • visible, active commitment from the board
  • establishing effective ‘downward’ communication systems and management structures
  • integration of good health and safety management with business decisions

Worker involvement

  • engaging the workforce in the promotion and achievement of safe and healthy conditions
  • effective 'upward' communication
  • providing high quality training

Assessment and review

  • identifying and managing health and safety risks
  • accessing (and following) competent advice
  • monitoring, reporting and reviewing performance


Addressing health and safety should not be seen as a regulatory burden - it offers significant opportunities. Benefits can include:

  • reduced costs
  • reduced risks
  • lower employee absence and turnover rates
  • fewer accidents
  • lessened threat of legal action
  • improved standing among suppliers and partners
  • better reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities
  • increased productivity, because employees are healthier, happier and better motivated


Larger public and private sector organisations need to have formal procedures for auditing and reporting health and safety performance.

The board should ensure that any audit is perceived as a positive management and boardroom tool. It should have unrestricted access to both external and internal auditors, keeping their cost-effectiveness, independence and objectivity under review.

Various codes and guides (many of them sector-specific) are available to help organisations report health and safety performance and risk management as part of good governance.

Key legislation

Please note that this link is to the original legislation on the OPSI website. Visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.