For business owners in both new and well established companies, health and safety can sometimes be a headache. But it doesn’t have to be.
Many SME owners worry about the financial repercussions of a personal injury claim, as well as the significant amount of damage it can do to a brand reputation. If left neglected, poor health and safety procedures can lead to a decrease in sales, a lack of recruitment potential, poor client and partner relationships and, in extreme cases, liquidation. This is why it’s so important to make sure your business is doing everything it can to stay in line with legislation.
The main bit of legislation you need to be aware of as an employer is the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974). We’ve given you a brief overview of the act, with some of the most important points to consider. To see the full act, you can find it here.
By implementing the correct regulations and procedures, employers can protect both employees and business.
So what is the Health and Safety at Work Act?
The act is focused on making sure you protect the well-being of your employees, as well as anyone else who may be affected by your work activities. In brief, it requires you to identify risk and then work on reducing it.
“The act states that you do not have to take measures to avoid or reduce risk if they are technically impossible, or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.”
So in other words, be sensible and use your common sense. You don’t need to wrap everything in bubble wrap, but do have a realistic awareness of your environment and steps you can take to improve it.
As an employer, you are required to
- Perform regular health and safety risk assessments
- Consult your employees on their health and safety concerns
- Provide safety information and training to employees
- Ensure the correct facilities are installed throughout the workplace, including access equipment for those with disabilities
- Implement first aid procedures and providing adequate training and equipment
- Introduce an official reporting system for employees to record accidents and work-related diseases
- Display correct health and safety law material
- Keep up to date with any legal or regulatory changes
Keeping the workplace safe
The first step you need to take to ensure that your workplace is safe, is to conduct a risk assessment. Risks will vary from workplace to workplace depending on your industry, but here’s a simple step-by-step process which outlines the process you’ll need to take.
How to take a risk assessment:
Start by walking around your workplace to identify potential hazards. Look out for accidents that might happen and equipment that has the potential to cause harm.
Next, consider the risk of a person coming to harm from the identified hazard and consider how serious that harm could be.
Once the risk has been identified it’s essential that the appropriate measures are immediately put into place to minimise it.
All hazards and safety measures must then be noted and kept for reference purposes.
If you work on your own, it’s still a legal requirement for you to take a risk assessment. However, only businesses with five employees or more will need to create a written health and safety policy after identifying risks.
Talk to your employees
All employees must be made aware of any procedures, which can be set out in regular training sessions. The members of staff will then need to sign a document to say they’ve received and understood all the safety advice you’ve provided them with.
Information they need to be given may include:
– Health and safety procedures around the work they do
– How risks are controlled
– What you require of them in terms of training and courses
Have a think about how much training is really necessary. For example, a low-risk business may not need lengthy, technical training, and to do so could be a waste of time and resources for your SME. In this case, simple information or instructions are likely to be sufficient.
Policies and procedures
After you’ve identified the risks, you need to write them up into a health and safety policy which describes how you intend to manage and prevent them.
This may sound daunting, but it’s actually pretty simple. The HSE’s guidelines and downloadable templates can be found here.
Another important procedure to get outlined is the procedure for first aid. It’s essential that every single employee should understand where they can receive help if they experience an accident at work, and there must always be a trained first aider in the building as well as a regularly checked first aid box.
By law, business owners are required to have an accident book on the premises to make a note of the details of all accidents that happen. Once an accident has been logged, the appropriate person must be informed so they can perform a risk assessment.
If you’re a business who employs staff, Employer’s Liability is a legal must-have. A Public Liability policy may also be a key protection to factor in if there may be a need to cover the cost of claims made by members of the public for incidents that occur in connection with your business activities.
Only a few businesses are not required to have employers’ liability insurance. These include businesses with no employees or family businesses where all employees are closely related to you.
If an employee becomes ill as a result of the work they do for you, they can claim compensation, but as long as you have taken reasonable steps to prevent risks, you shouldn’t have to pay compensation. But if a court does find you liable to, employers’ liability insurance will help you to pay any compensation for your employees’ inju
ries or illness.
For further information, download a free copy of the HSE’s leaflet on Employers’ Liability.
Once you’ve conducted a risk assessment, put the correct policies in place and secured the appropriate insurance cover, your businesses should be well on the way to meeting its responsibilities.
However, given the complicated nature of the law it can be easy to overlook certain things, so it might be useful to have a look over this checklist on the HSE’s main site.
By applying a little common sense and taking the appropriate actions, health and safety really doesn’t have to be a major issue. When starting or growing a business, health and safety can sometimes seem like yet another point on a long list of things to organise, but with the right planning and organisation, any business can successfully implement a health and safety system which will protect their employees as well as their business.