The problem with having a ‘Duty of Care’ is that it stops becoming an instinctive response and turns it into an item on the checklist of requirements.
The process of getting people to do things is usually through providing them with the appropriate levels of information, instruction, training and supervision (IITS), care is part of the package – it’s why the whole process works.
Families do this instinctively – parents teach their children what is right and what is wrong, help them to identify hazards, understand risks. There are lots of dos and don’ts, ‘be home on time’, ‘don’t upset the neighbours’, ‘don’t run into the road without looking’.
Families teach children how to do things right and keep an eye on them until they are carrying out the practice reliably. If someone is not able to do everything for themselves, the family often looks out for them, for instance if an elderly relative is not too steady on their feet, another family member will usually phone up regularly to check that they’re OK.
Most of us do this naturally – we don’t have to be taught to care, we just do that for the people closest to us, whether friends or family. The problem is that, for some reason, that doesn’t translate into the workplace. At work we’ve been told to care, so it stops being instinct and becomes a duty – a tick box.
People switch off the instinctive response to care for their workmates – and it becomes the responsibility of the employer to install processes that ‘care’. Care isn’t a process, it’s an instinct – one we all have, it shouldn’t be a box on a checklist.