Employees with health conditions, including mental health or physical impairments, must be given the same opportunities as employees who are not impaired with a health condition. Employers must not discriminate against anyone and must provide equal opportunities for all employees.
An employer is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of all of their employees. Where practicable, extra measures have to be put in place, to ensure adequate control measures are in place to provide a safe place of work.
Some people may choose not to disclose their disability if they feel it will not affect their work and some disabilities may not have recognisable physical symptoms. Employees do not have to tell you they have a disability unless it could foreseeably affect their safety or anyone else connected to their work. If they do not tell you, and there are no obvious indicators of any disability, you are not under any obligation to make workplace adjustments.
However, an employer must make reasonable adjustments for workers who do disclose they have a disability. If practicable, reasonable adjustments could include removing any physical barriers that could affect them from working safely or gaining access to the working area, such as installing a ramp or changing the office or building layout.
Employers may also provide extra support for disabled workers in other areas, should they require it. Employers may consider rescheduling work to more suitable times, where extra support may be available if needed. You may also consider providing suitable alternative equipment, for example, automated machinery to reduce manual handling or a motorised wheelchair if there is movement involved in the job.
There is no legal requirement to carry out a specific risk assessment for a disabled person – but, if you are made aware of a worker or visitor with a disability, you should review your existing risk assessment to ensure it covers any likely risks they may encounter while at the workplace.
Blanket policies that are introduced as an all-encompassing solution to the health and safety risks likely faced by disabled people in the workplace are often not helpful due to the individual ways disabilities can affect people. The severity of the disability, or other things that may exacerbate the condition, can affect people with the same condition differently.
Individual policies and control measures may be introduced following a review of the employer’s needs and requirements.
Practical changes to the workplace
Workplace changes may need to be made in order to accommodate disabled workers. For example, someone who has a disability requiring medication may need to be provided with a fridge to store their medication safely, or a person with mobility issues may need their station moved to the ground floor.
Emergency situations need to be carefully planned for, and measures may need to be put in place in order to make them more accessible. In the event of a fire, step-free access may be required, for example. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) should be put in place well ahead of time, as they aim to make emergency situations as safe as possible for those with disabilities.
Optimum Safety provide bespoke health and safety advice, as well as support packages, which means we are here to protect both your employees and business finances.