Duty of care is defined as the legal obligation for employers to protect their workers from harm and undue risks while at work. In tort law, duty of care is defined as a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the standard of care (watchfulness, attention, caution) that a prudent person in similar circumstances would use. In other words, duty of care is the standard by which someone is held liable for a plaintiff’s injury in personal injury cases like medical malpractice, car accidents, slips, and falls. If a person or organization is in breach of duty of care, they may be liable to a third party for negligence.
A company is practicing duty of care when they do everything in their ability to ensure the health and safety of its workers by shielding them from any risk of harm or danger. This includes identifying and mitigating hazards and establishing measures to safeguard employees, regardless of where they work. This can also mean providing tools, materials and equipment so that these workers can successfully complete their job.
Duty of care evolution
Duty of care started as a common law principle in the 19th century and further evolved after the Second Industrial Revolution to protect factory workers from harsh and dangerous labor conditions.
Today, duty of care has become much more than an ambiguous legal term. In the past ten years, lawmakers have put an increasing focus on the predictability of events and recognizing that employers have a responsibility to assess risks and dangers and take appropriate actions to mitigate them. This forms the modern definition of duty of care to broadly encompass a company’s legal, ethical, and fiduciary duty to protect employees from risks and dangers when working or traveling on behalf of the organization.
What happens when a company is in breach?
In Canada and the United States, there are stringent health and safety and employment laws to ensure companies take reasonable steps to protect their workers. Failure to adhere to these can result in heavy fines for the organization or supervisors. For extreme breaches that result in injuries or death, the penalty includes imprisonment.
Aside from the legal obligations, a company has a moral responsibility to protect their workers. Unsafe working conditions lead to low morale and high stress which result in a decrease of productivity, increase in absences and turnover rates. In the United States, stress and depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost of $17 billion to $44 billion to employers.
Using connected worker technology to exceed duty of care responsibilities
With the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), we are now connected more than ever before. One of the advances in the environment, health and safety (EHS) field is the connected worker technology, which is defined as a network of hardware and software that connect every worker seamlessly through connective technologies that actively exchange data with other devices and machines in an integrative system. With both hardware and software components, connective technologies contextualize a manufacturing worker’s action within a broader system in real-time. The connected worker technologies drive higher productivity, better decision making, right-the-first-time outcomes, and safer workers.
On the safety front, these technologies not only allow at-risk workers to access help in times of emergency, but they also help prevent an incident from happening. Aware360’s suite of solutions paired with edge devices ensures that workers are connected 24/7 through a global network of response teams so your workers are protected anywhere, anytime.
Talk to us today and see how we can help keep your workers safe and productive.