Health and Safety in the workplace
3rd March 2017
Health and safety at work is one of any employer’s biggest responsibilities. In fact, it can be the most important consideration of all.
Nobody wants to risk life and limb for their job. But if an employer doesn’t take health and safety seriously, that’s exactly what employees might be doing.
Health and safety regulations are there for a reason. And they can change. That’s why it’s essential to keep up with the latest HSE laws, rules and guidelines.
Are the rules the same for everyone?
If you work in an office, your biggest risks might be cables and electricals. If you’re a lifeguard, the water’s a much bigger problem.
No two workplaces are the same, which means that workplace regulations aren’t identical for every environment.
There are some general rules for health and safety at work.
HSE’s Health and Safety Made Simple aims to clarify workplace regulations, making them much more accessible for employers and employees.
Some industries will require more than a basic risk assessment and a health and safety policy. In these cases, it is advisable to get more specific professional support.
If you have any concerns about increased risk in your area of work, then it is worth asking for advice to make sure that you’ve adhered to regulations.
Some of the industries that are more risky include quarries and mines, farms, restaurants and offshore oil rigs.
What does a risk assessment involve?
All employers should carry out a risk assessment.
Identify all of the possible ways that your employees might be harmed. Then, do all that you can to minimise the risks that you’ve identified.
No environment is completely risk-free. Legislators don’t expect miracles. But, as an employer, it is important to do your best for the welfare of your workers.
Because if an accident did happen, you would be required to show that you’d tried your best to avoid that situation.
You do not need to record your risk assessment findings if you have fewer than 5 employees, or have nothing particularly noteworthy to address. There is no need to create a written risk assessment to tell your employees that the kettle will get hot!
If you notice any significant risks, or you employ more than 5 people, then you will be required to write things down.
You can use a sample risk assessment, or risk assessment template, rather than starting with a blank document. There is a HSE risk assessment template that covers the basic requirements.
What should a health and safety policy contain?
A workplace health and safety policy is the central document that details risks and responsibilities.
It’s something that employees can refer to, and that should be kept up to date.
Usually, employers split their policy into three separate sections. The first section states that the employer is committed to health and safety. The second section sets out details of responsibility, including listing any trained first aiders and fire marshals.
The third section explains how the employer is ensuring that health and safety regulations are adhered to. This might include any staff training that is offered, safety equipment that is provided and any signs that employees should pay attention to.
Your health and safety policy should also make it clear how your employees are expected to act in emergency situations. Don’t rely on your workers to check the policy regularly. Make sure that they know what to do, even if they haven’t looked through their handbooks.
Are there any specific health and safety staffing requirements?
At the very least, you need a first aid box and one first aider to take control of it. They’ll be responsible for replenishing supplies, and for making sure that the first aid box can be accessed whenever it’s needed.
You may decide that you need a few first aiders, and that they should be formally trained, if you’re running a larger company.
Are there any insurance requirements?
It is very likely that you’ll need Employers’ Liability Insurance. This is a legal requirement and covers any compensation claims that may be made against you.
The Health and Safety Law poster
As well as producing a risk assessment, and making sure that you have a written health and safety policy, it is essential that you display the Health and Safety Law poster. This is a legal requirement.
The poster shows employees what you should be doing to protect them. It also tells employees what they need to do, and how they should take action if they have any concerns.
In addition, it includes HSE contact details.
As an alternative to displaying a poster, employers can choose to distribute the equivalent leaflets to each and every employee. It’s likely that this will be more expensive, as well as being more complicated to keep track of.
If you’re choosing to distribute leaflets instead of displaying the poster, you must make sure that nobody’s missed out. If you take on new employees, include the leaflet in their welcome pack.
How do employers know that they’re doing enough?
Many aspects of health and safety come without specific facts and figures. The law requires that you take reasonable action to prevent any accident or injury.
What’s reasonable will vary from one business to the next. As an employer, you’ll need to feel confident that you could defend your action, or lack of it, if anything happened to someone in your workplace.
Most employers will manage their own health and safety policies. But, if you’re concerned, there are ways to access assistance. One of the easiest and best ways to find a qualified health and safety expert is through the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register.
Health and safety in the workplace is not something to forget after you’ve thought about it once. Stay aware of any changes in the workplace, to your employees or the environments in which they’re working, and adjust your policies as often as you need to.