This is the first of a number of blogs I will be producing regarding the benefits of Health & Safety to an organisation. This one outlines in general terms without going into depth the employers obligations. Future articles will concentrate on safety culture, the benefits of a positive safety culture, ways to improve the safety culture, safety management systems etc.
As well as your legal responsibilities, your business can also benefit from good health and safety at work. Effective health and safety practices pay for themselves, because they help you avoid staff illness, accidents and the costs associated with them. They can also improve your reputation with customers, regulators and employees.
In general, health and safety laws apply to all businesses, no matter how small. As an employer, or a self-employed person, you are responsible for health and safety in your business. You need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers and provide a safe working environment.
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. You could appoint yourself, one or more of your workers, someone from outside 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 five or more employees, you must have a written policy.
You should use a risk assessment as the main health and safety tool to identify workplace hazards. It will also allow you to put measures in place to control and minimise the hazards and risks you find.
You should regularly review your risk assessment to make sure it still meets all requirements and complies with health and safety legislation.
You have certain legal obligations to consult with your employees or their representatives on health and safety issues.
It is also good practice to find out what your employees and their representatives think about any changes that might affect their health and safety and the quality of your health and safety information and training.
Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. You must provide clear instructions, information and adequate training for your employees, including information on hazards and risks in the workplace, measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks and how to follow any emergency procedures
You also have an obligation to provide this information for any contractors or self-employed people who may be working for you.
Display the health and safety law poster. If you employ anyone, you must display the health and safety law poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it.
As an employer, you must protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace, and provide welfare facilities for your employees.
Facilities include toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer, drinking water, a place to store clothing (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)
You will also need to consider the working environment. You must make sure there is good ventilation - a supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system, a reasonable working temperature (usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures), lighting suitable for the work being carried out, enough room space and suitable workstations and seating, a clean workplace with appropriate waste containers
You must have first aid arrangements in your workplace, as you are responsible for making sure that your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or are injured at work.
Under health and safety law, you must also report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.
First aid arrangements will depend on the particular circumstances in your workplace and you need to assess what your first-aid needs are. As a minimum, you must have a suitably stocked first-aid box, an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements, information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements
Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease. Keeping records will help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment.
Make sure you protect people's personal details by storing records confidentially in a secure place.
If you have more than 10 employees, or own or occupy a mine, quarry or factory, you must keep an accident book under social security law.