Q16. How do we define responsibilities and accountabilities?

Responsibility can be defined as: "the duty or obligation to carry out a task or role and for which the person has been provided with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision, but which can have consequences and penalties for failure".

Accountability can be defined as: "the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions and decisions made within the defined scope of a documented job description, including the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for any possible negative consequences".

Responsibility and accountability are fundamental to the foundation of an effective safety management system (SMS) and should not exist without each other. It is not possible to have effective line management where responsibilities are not clearly defined; how could an employee be held accountable for an act or omission in the event of an accident or incident if their responsibilities are not defined? Organisations that do not define clearly the roles and responsibilities of their employees and managers risk breaking the law - both in terms of occupational safety and health (OSH) law and also employment law, depending on the requirements in your jurisdiction(s).

The easiest approach to defining accountabilities and responsibilities is to create job descriptions for all of the roles within your organisation, from the chief executive down to shop-floor workers, taking the following into consideration:

• Job descriptions must comply with the minimum legal requirements as outlined in employment and OSH law within your jurisdiction(s).

• Whoever has responsibility for defining job descriptions within your organisation must understand the specific occupational health and safety duties that apply to your organisation.

• Job descriptions must be defined, documented and communicated to employees, not just when hiring people, but also where there may be changes to employment or OSH law.

• Job descriptions should be made available to all of your employees within your SMS or human resources system.

• The format should be clear, concise and uniform across the organisation and cover OSH requirements.

Q17. What does a job description look like?

The following template for job descriptions is just one of the many examples available for organisations to use, but this one specifically addresses health and safety issues and reporting requirements.

A job description should contain the following information:

• Job title: Title as defined within the organisation, such as 'Warehouse Manager' or 'Receptionist'.

• Location: The actual geographical location where the person will work, such as 'Oslo head office' or 'Dublin Transport Depot - Warehouse A'.

• Grade / level: Where there is a requirement to create different grades or levels within a defined job title, such as 'Administrative Assistant - Level 2' or 'HSE Advisor - Grade 1'.

• Reporting to: The role or position that the employee reports to when in this role - perhaps more than one person, depending on specific requirements.

• Duties and responsibilities: Outline what are considered to be the basic tasks assigned for this role.

• Health and safety duties: Specify any health and safety duties where they may apply, such as 'Weekly inspections of the food preparation areas according to the HACCP plan' or 'Fire Warden - Ground Floor', although these HSE roles will need to be defined in more detail within the safety management system. Employees must be fully trained for the roles to which they are assigned.

• Qualifications: The basic academic and vocational qualifications required for the role, such as 'Degree / Diploma-qualified in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science ' or 'Chartered Member of Institute of Occupational Safety and Health'.

• Experience: Outline the relevant experience for the role.

• Working conditions: Outline relevant working conditions, such as working hours, travel requirements etc.

• Additional requirements: Any additional comments as required.

The following is an example of a possible job description for the role of a Fork Lift Truck Driver in a storage warehouse.

Job Title

Fork Lift Truck Operator.


Distribution and Storage Facility - Warehouses A and B.

Grade / Level

Grade 3.

Reporting To

Storage Warehouse Supervisor.

Duties and Responsibilities

Load and unload HGV vehicles.

Palletise product ready for loading and cling-wrap finished product as required. Maintain a clean, safe and tour-ready facility. Assist in warehouse stock-keeping as required. Responsible for re-shelving and re-stocking product. Other related duties as required.

HSE Duties

Carry out all forklift safety checks and inspections as defined in Company procedures. Actively participate in safety programs. Wearing of appropriate PPE as specified.

Comply with all safety duties defined in Company Handbook (Chapter 3 - Health and safety responsibilities).


Minimum 5 'O' Levels of grade C and above.

In-date RTITB operator certification for counterbalance and pivot steer (Bendi/Flexi) vehicles.


Minimum 1 year in similar role.

Working Conditions


Working hours - 08:00 to 17:30 hours (with breaks). 5 day week - no weekend work.

Additional Requirements

Manual Handling Training.

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