If your business employs staff, you will be expected to meet certain responsibilities under Health and Safety Law.
The essence of good health and safety practice is that you should provide, within reasonable standards, a safe workplace for your employees. Whether they are working with heavy machinery or sitting in an office at their computers, you must assess any risks your workforce may encounter and take measures to minimise them. Additionally, where customers or other visitors are able to access the premises, you should ensure that their safety is not put in jeopardy.
Health and safety not only caters for potential accidents but also means that you should make the workplace as safe and comfortable as possible. This includes ensuring that the workplace is suitably clean and hygienic and that toilets and other necessary sanitary facilities are provided. Any long-term risks to health should be identified and minimised, along with risks of accident and injury.
Health and safety policies
You must always be aware of how you are dealing with health and safety in the workplace, and if you have five or more employees, you need to set out a health and safety policy in writing.
This should explain the risks that exist in your workplace and the precautions you have in place to minimise them. It should also clearly state the responsibilities of employees in order to ensure their safety, including any procedures you have implemented.
If you are legally required to have a written policy, it can be displayed on a sign which is visible for all employees to see or printed as a leaflet to be distributed amongst your staff.
To comply with health and safety law, you need to carry out a risk assessment of your workplace. This ensures that any risks are identified and measures for dealing with them are in place.
The first step is to identify any potential risks. Whilst some of these will be obvious, you should undertake a thorough inspection of the workplace and talk to your employees to identify any less obvious hazards. You should also identify the groups of people most at risk from these dangers.
Once you have identified any risks in the workplace, you’ll need to determine the actions you will take. Consider whether your current safety measures are sufficient, or if the risk has not been considered before, decide what can be done to reduce or eliminate the hazard it poses.
Once you have evaluated the risks, you can begin to implement your solutions. At this point, you are also legally required to document the details of your risk assessment in writing if you have at least five employees. Your write-up should demonstrate that you carried out the appropriate checks, investigated who would be affected by the risks, and planned reasonable solutions based on the nature of the risks and how many people could be affected. You should also show how your staff have been consulted throughout the process.
For sample risk assessments and templates, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/
First aid is any medical attention given to someone at the scene of an accident. Part of your risk assessment should involve deciding on what is a suitable amount of medical equipment for your workplace and whether a fully-trained first aider is required.
The minimum requirement for a workplace such as an office is that a first aid box must be available, and someone trained in administering it is present. They do not necessarily need to be fully trained in providing medical assistance, but there must always be a first aider present.
A workplace with more severe or specific hazards must provide first aid resources in line with the risks at hand. The essential idea is that you must supply first aid provisions which are suited to the size, nature and any other considerations of your business. Guidance on what a basic first aid kit should contain can be found here.
If an accident does occur in the workplace, you should ensure that details of the incident are recorded and that no new risks have developed as a result of the accident. In some cases, you will also be required to report the accident to the Health and Safety Executive.
You are required to report accidents which:
- Cause someone’s death
- Cause major injuries
- Force the victim to be off work or unable to fulfil their role for 7+ days after injury
- Injure a visiting member of the public resulting in hospital treatment
The HSE also has a list of other incidents which it describes as ‘dangerous occurrences’, which must be reported even if nobody suffers an injury. Details of these are available on the HSE website.
The benefits to you
Not only is implementing the right health and safety measures your legal responsibility, but it also has wide-ranging benefits for your business, leading to increased profit and employee morale.
These benefits include:
- Protection of workers
- Lower absence rate
- Reduced recruitment costs
- Potential insurance savings
- Maintained reputation
- Increased productivity
Get legal advice on health and safety
If you need further help understanding your responsibilities and implementing a policy under health and safety law, please visit www.hse.gov.uk where there is a wealth of information, useful tools and resources.
Employers’ liability insurance
The majority of employers are legally required to take out employers’ liability insurance. This insurance covers you for any injury or harm suffered by your employees for which you are found to be liable. If you follow health and safety law properly, you will hopefully never need it, but it is still a requirement for most kinds of employers.
For a free review of your liability insurances or to find out the support available to help you comply with your health and safety obligations, call the Chartered brokers at Hine on 0161 438 0000.