Health and safety provides subject matter for plenty of jokes, but it’s actually crucial to the effective management of any workplace. In the very simplest of terms, nobody wants to be responsible for anybody being hurt on their premises. Quite apart from the distress it causes, it can lead to reputational and financial damage. Fortunately, managing health and safety can be very straightforward.
Here are 7 simple tips to getting it right.
1. Make it (part of) a person’s job
Legally, you are required to appoint a competent person to manage health and safety in your organization. The definition of competent is essentially that they must have an appropriate level of expertise, what that will mean in practice, will depend entirely on your company’s situation. While smaller companies may feel that employing a dedicated health and safety professional is more than they require, or can justify, including the responsibilities in a person’s job description and linking it to their objectives can go a long way to ensuring that it is taken seriously.
2. Risk assessments are the foundation of health and safety
You can only deal with risks if you actually understand them. A basic risk assessment covers the following points:
- What the risk is
- Where the risk is located
- When the risk is (most) likely to occur
- Why there is a risk
- Who is at risk
- How big the (potential) impact is
This is legally required if your company employs more than five people and is good practice regardless of the number of employees you have. Obviously, once you have undertaken your risk assessment, you need to act on it.
3. Invest in appropriate safety and welfare equipment
In addition to dedicated safety equipment such as first aid kits, ensuring general staff welfare also forms part of health and safety (and your legal obligations as an employer). This includes providing drinking water and hygiene facilities as well as keeping premises well lit and at a comfortable temperature. If your employees are working in dangerous or hazardous environments then ensuring that you provide them with appropriate safety clothing like hi-vis workwear, safety boots, safety goggles and protective headwear can also ensure their safety at work.
4. Undertake training where appropriate
Never assume that your employees should know something. Unless they have relevant (and up to date) qualifications to demonstrate their knowledge, it’s your responsibility to train them.
5. It’s impossible to eliminate risk so insure for it
As an absolute minimum you should have public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance. In this context, “public” means anyone who enters your premises other than your employees, for example delivery or maintenance workers. Hence it basically applies to all companies even if you think of your workplace as being off limits to the public as a whole.
6. Set a health and safety policy and put it in writing
This is a legal requirement if you have more than five employees. It may sound frightening, but actually it can be a helpful exercise. At a basic level, you open with a statement setting out how you deal with health and safety in general and then provide details on what, specifically, you do to promote health and safety and to mitigate any risks you have identified. For example, you should include the presence and location of safety devices such as fire extinguishers/blankets, smoke alarms and first aid kits, any training resources and their nature e.g. videos and posters and any processes you follow, such as making regular checks to ensure fire exits actually are kept clear.
NB: You may find it helpful to create a “health and safety folder” with a copy of this policy and all other relevant documentation, such as your insurance documentation, incident record forms and records of the purchase and expiry dates on safety equipment, including dates when batteries need to be replaced. This can be kept in paper format, in an accessible location, as well as electronically.
7. Remember to display the health and safety poster in an obvious and public place
This is a legal obligation if you have any employees. You can buy a poster directly from the HSE or make your own using an online template.
This article on health and safety in the workplace is provided by health and safety clothing provider Image To Suit You.