Health and Safety made simple
Only last week I had somebody say to me “It’s all very well for you to talk about health & Safety, but it is far too complicated and I haven’t got the time to deal with it”.
Managing health and safety doesn’t have to be complicated, costly or time consuming.
For many businesses, all that’s required is a basic series of practical tasks that protect people from harm and at the same time protect the future success and the growth of your business. So this week I will take you through the steps and help you make sure you have done what you need to – and no more.
This week’s 2 recent HSE cases also look at accidents that could and should have been avoided.
- A man sustained serious, life-changing injuries, after suffering burns to his body and throat, the 41-year-old man is unable to work and is now registered disabled.
- Mr Dunn then compounded his offences by ignoring repeated concerns raised with him by the home-owners that they could smell gas.
Health and Safety made Simple
In general, health and safety laws apply to all businesses. As an employer, or a self-employed person, you are responsible for health and safety in your business. Health and safety laws are there to protect you, your employees and the public from workplace dangers.
The approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business and the nature of your business activity. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or your health and safety policy.
You need to ensure that you have the right help
As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.
If you run a low-risk business, health and safety is something you can manage without needing to buy in expert help. Here you could appoint yourself as a competent person or one or more of your workers.
However, if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health and safety in-house, or if you are a higher-risk business, you may need some external help or advice.
Write a health and safety policy for your business
Describing how you will manage health and safety in your business will let your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety. This will be your health and safety policy. It should clearly say who does what, when and how.
If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your health and safety policy.
The policy does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. It comes in three sections:
- General Statement – This is meant to show your commitment to providing your workforce with a safe and healthy place of work
- Organisation – This section explains the make-up of the company and details the responsibility towards health and safety, of everybody in the company from the Owner/MD down to the most junior worker. Nobody should be able to say “I didn’t know I was responsible for that”.
- Arrangements – This section is the real crux of the policy and spells out how you, as an organisation, expect your staff to meet standards and what controls or procedures to follow. For example: Your policy on Drink and Drugs is… What is your policy regarding noise at work, hazardous substances or driving company vehicles? Again nobody who works for you should be able to say “I didn’t know that I was supposed to do that”
But remember: A policy will only be effective if you and your staff follow it and review it regularly.
Control the risks in your business
You must control the health and safety risks in your workplace. To do this you need to think about what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm.
This is known as a risk assessment. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you whether you have covered all you need to.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. You all do risk assessments many times a day; for example before you pull out of your drive in your car or before you walk across the road. So it isn’t difficult.
You should record your significant findings, but there is no need to record everyday risks. Keep it simple and focus on controls. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down. Although if you do write your assessment down, you have it to refer to when you employ somebody else at a later date, thereby ensuring you don’t forget to tell them something.
The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.
How do I assess the risks in my workplace?
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards (things that may cause harm).
Then think about the risk, which is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by a hazard, and how serious the harm could be.
Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed. Ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.
Concentrate on the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm. Consider the measures you are already taking to control the risks and ask if you have covered all you need to do.
Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures in place.
Then record your significant findings. Any paperwork you produce should help you to manage the risks in your business and tell people what they need to know. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise – just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded.
Few workplaces stay the same and sooner or later you will bring in new equipment, substances or procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense to review your risk assessment on a regular basis. If anything significant changes, check your risk assessment and update it.
Consult your employees
You have to consult all your employees on health and safety. This does not need to be complicated. You can do this by listening and talking to them about:
- health and safety and the work they do;
- how risks are controlled;
- the best ways of providing information and training.
Consultation is a two-way process, allowing staff to raise concerns and influence decisions on the management of health and safety.
Your employees are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace and involving them in making decisions shows them that you take their health and safety seriously.
In a very small business, you might choose to consult your employees directly. Alternatively, you might consult through a health and safety representative, chosen by your employees or selected by a trade union. As an employer, you cannot decide who will be the representative.
Provide training and information
Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. You must provide clear instructions and information, and adequate training, for your employees.
Consider how much training is necessary. A proportionate approach is needed, for example a low-risk business would not need lengthy technical training. Providing simple information or instructions is likely to be sufficient.
Don’t forget contractors and self-employed people who may be working for you and make sure everyone has the right level of information on:
- hazards and risks they may face, if any;
- measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks, if necessary;
- how to follow any emergency procedures.
When you provide training, ask your employees what they think about it, to make sure it’s relevant and effective. Keeping training records will help you to identify when refresher training might be needed.
The information and training you provide should be in a form that is easy to understand. Everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do.
Health and safety training should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees. We at The Wilkins Safety Group regularly run training courses and we are able to help you with your training needs. Our effective training can often be done ‘in-house’.
Provide the right workplace facilities
You must provide the right workplace facilities for everyone in your workplace, including people with disabilities. However, this doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
Basic things you need to consider are outlined below.
For your employees’ well-being you need to provide: