Health & Safety – it’s something that, love it or loathe it (most likely the latter), all businesses have to cover. Small businesses are certainly no exception.
This blog will help you get a head start if you’re new to employing people, to ensure that you’ve got all the basics covered.
Basic legal obligations for Health & Safety at work
Managing Health & Safety doesn’t have to be complicated, costly or time-consuming. However, there are a few basic steps you must take to ensure you are complying with relevant Health & Safety law.
Health and Safety Documents & Signs
First of all, if you have more than five employees you must have a Health & Safety policy that explains how you will manage Health & Safety in your business. It should clearly outline both yours, and your employees’, responsibilities. Such as an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, and employees have a duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions at work.
Secondly, regardless of the number of employees you have, you must display a Health & Safety Law poster. You may have seen them around other offices, and they should look something like this:
Once you’ve purchased one – we’ve put a link on the image – you should display it somewhere that your staff will be able to read it easily.
In addition to this, you will also need to put up other safety signage. This could include fire escape routes and exit signs, first aid information, or warnings of hot water, corrosive materials or any other hazards that could endanger your employees.
Health and Safety First Aid Obligations
You should ensure that you have a fully stocked First Aid kit on your premises, and that you have an appointed person responsible for first aid arrangements. You do not legally need a qualified first aider, however it is strongly recommended. And the number of first aiders you have should depend on the size of your workforce and the nature of your business. Finally, make sure all your employees are aware of these first aid arrangements, and know what to do in an emergency!
Health and Safety Training
You must provide clear Health and Safety instructions and information, and adequate training, for your employees. This does not need to be a lengthy exercise and could be part of your induction process. As a minimum it should include identification of any known risks such as slips trips and fall hazards, how to assess and minimise these, and details of your emergency procedures such as what to do in the event of a fire, if an employee suffers a serious injury, or action to take in the event of a flood. Keep a record of this training and ensure that you identify when refresher training is required.
In addition to training your employees, you are expected to consult with them on a regular basis. This should be a two-way dialogue; you must keep staff updated with any Health & Safety developments in the workplace, and listen to any concerns or suggestions they may have.
Employers’ Liability Insurance
Finally, you will probably need employers’ liability insurance. If an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result of the work they do for you, they can claim compensation from you, and this insurance will help you to pay any compensation.
Risk assessments and training staff in Health & Safety
As part of managing the Health & Safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace. Here’s a picture of one of the risk assessment templates we provide for our customers:
As you can see, it identifies risks and solutions in stages:
- What are the potential hazards?
- Who might be harmed and how?
- What measures are already in place?
- Are the measures enough to reduce risk as far as possible?
- If changes are needed, when do they need to be completed by and by whom?
The risk assessment may identify problems in areas that require you to train staff. There could be any number of items that you will need to take action on, such as:
- Fire Safety – this could include training to use firefighting equipment, or taking steps to reduce or remove high fire risks in your business.
- Accidents and Ill Health – any injuries or ‘near misses’ should be recorded. If you discover this has not been happening, you should train staff to do so. Under Health & Safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) – as mentioned above, signage helps to identify hazardous substances to staff. You should also ensure that staff are trained to handle these materials in a responsible way, so as to avoid spills or injury, and that you keep up to date information on these substances.
- Manual Handling – how to lift a box might be the go-to example of the ‘nanny-state’, but lifting and moving heavy equipment can cause major injuries if not managed properly.
- Electricity – shocks, as well as trips and falls due to trailing wires, can be an everyday risk in the modern office. As a result, you may need to train staff on how to work responsibly around electrical equipment so as not to harm themselves or others.
- Working at Heights – another element of Health & Safety that is open to ridicule, but that still needs to be taken seriously. Staff need to ensure that if even if they are standing on a small stool, that it is secure and they won’t fall and injure themselves.
- Ergonomics – often forgotten, but an essential process for desk-based workers. Doing a workstation assessment is always sensible to avoid long-term issues presenting themselves. Are staff comfortable in their chair, are they straining to look at a screen for long periods? All important questions.
- Special attention to those who are at risk of having their workplace entitlements denied, or who lack the capacity or means to secure them.
What if I don’t run a normal, office-based business? What Health & Safety considerations are there?
There is a vast amount of specific Health & Safety law that applies to different industries and types of work. Examples of these include working with noise, vibration, gas and asbestos, or if you work within construction, care work, catering or hairdressing…the list goes on and consideration should be given to ensure that you are adequately protecting your staff.
Here are a couple of Health & Safety areas that we regularly advise on, to help our customers with staff who don’t work in a ‘normal’, office-based business:
1 – Driving on Company Business
You are still responsible for staff who work out of a vehicle. This means that, usually through employment policies, you should try to ensure that employees:
- Drive safely and follow the highway code
- Do not smoke in company cars
- Don’t take phone calls whilst driving (even with hands-free), and handle this appropriately if they need to take calls whilst en-route to meetings
- Keep company cars in a state that is safe to drive
- Have a valid driving licence, and don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Take regular breaks when driving
2 – Lone Working
In some cases, employees may be required to work alone. In which case you must ensure:
- You complete specific lone-working risk assessments for staff working on their own
- You provide training for when working alone, in addition to the standard Health & Safety training
- Out of hours communication is made available to the employee, and they are given guidance on proper emergency procedures
- The employee understands the correct procedure should an accident occur
- The employee is safe, as far as reasonably possible, when walking to and from their car at night for example
As you can see, there’s a lot to Health & Safety at work. Even small businesses with just a few staff in a small office can face many risks, and it is your responsibility as an employer to understand them and protect against them.
We can’t say that accidents won’t ever happen if you follow Health & Safety procedure properly. But you can at least minimise the risk of damage to your business, or worse injury to staff, by following the rules.
If you want to find out how citrusHR can help with your Health & Safety, do get in touch via 0333 444 0165, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.