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Who is responsible for everyday health and safety in my business?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and associated regulations all employers have a duty to make sure their workplaces are safe for their employees and members of the public.  Employers need to make suitable and sufficient arrangements for managing health and safety in their business.

HSWA also places a duty on people at work to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and for the health and safety of other people who may be affected by their acts or omissions.  This also applies to people who are self-employed.

How do I go about managing health and safety in my workplace?

If you are setting up a business or are looking to review your health and safety arrangements as an employer you must appoint one or more competent people to help you with health and safety.  A competent person is someone who has the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to manage health and safety.

You may have the knowledge and ability to undertake and meet all your health and safety responsibilities yourself or with the help of staff.  If you do not feel confident in this then you may need some external help or advice.

You need to remember that there may also be extra things you will need to do to comply with the law.  This will depend on your type of business or the way you carry out certain activities.

Writing a health and safety policy for your business

A health and safety policy describes how you will manage health and safety in your business.  It needs to include details of who does what, when and how to ensure safety in the workplace.

If you employ five or more people you must have a written policy.  If you have fewer than five employees completing a policy is good practice although not required by law.

A policy does not have to be complicated, although it must reflect your business and the activities that are carried out.

You must review the policy on a regular basis to make sure it is up to date.  You must also make sure that all your employees and others who enter your premises for the purpose of working, such as contractors or temporary staff, are aware of what the policy says.

Understand and manage the risks in your business

Employers are required by law to carry out an assessment of significant risks in the workplace, commonly known as a risk assessment.  To do this you need to:

  1. Think about what may cause harm to people in your business – these are the hazards.  People who could be harmed may include employees, members of the public and others who enter your premises for the purpose of working, such as contractors or temporary staff.
  2. Assess the risks – the chance of somebody being harmed by a hazard, and how serious this could be.  Concentrate on the risks that are most likely to harm someone.
  3. Consider whether you are doing enough to prevent or control the risks and whether you can do things in the workplace to make it safer.
  4. Put in place additional measures to control or reduce the risks where you have identified that you are not currently doing enough.
  5. Record your findings.  If you have fewer than five employees then you do not have to write anything down, although it is good practice to do so.

The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place reasonable measures to control those risks.

For some risks there are particular control measures that are required by law.

The risk assessment must be specific to a workplace.  If you have more than one site you will need a risk assessment specific to each site.  Where you share a workplace with other businesses you will need to co-operate with them on health and safety matters.

You will need to review your risk assessment on a regular basis to make sure it is up to date.  This is important when you bring in new equipment, substances or procedures that could lead to new hazards.  You must also make sure that all your employees and others who enter your premises for the purpose of working such as contractors or temporary staff are aware of the findings of your risk assessment.

You also need to remember that a specific risk assessment must be completed for any employee that is under 18 years of age and for any female staff members who are pregnant.

Consult your staff

The law says that you must consult all your employees on health and safety matters.  You can do this by listening and talking to them about:

  • health and safety and the work they do
  • your policy and risk assessment and how to control risks
  • The best ways of providing information and training.

You may learn things from staff that you had not considered that could help you in controlling risks in the workplace.  You can also hear their concerns and tell them what you are doing to help protect them.

For further information on consulting staff click here»

Provide free training and information

The law says that you must provide clear instructions, information and adequate training for your employees.  You need to make sure that you include any contractors or self-employed people who may work for you for a period of time.

Employees will need instruction, information and training on:

  • hazards and risks they might face while doing their job
  • measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks including the safe use of machinery and the use of personal protective equipment
  • Emergency procedures and what to do.

Training needs to be relevant and effective.  Information and training needs to be easy to understand and to follow.  It is a good idea to keep you staff trained and have them re-assessed for competency every 3 years or maximum 5 years.

Remember that any training that is needed for an employee to do his or her job should take place in working hours and the employee should not be expected to pay for the training.

Do I need and outside training provider or can I do it in house?

All people using equipment at work must be adequately trained to ensure they understand and carry out the safe use of the work equipment they are expected to use. Some work activities require detailed formal training by a registered instructor holding the specific category of plant or equipment, but, for most everyday activities involving work equipment, adequate training can be delivered in-house using the manufacturer’s instructions and the background knowledge / skills of more experienced workers and managers.

People should be competent for the work they undertake. Training – along with knowledge, experience and skill – helps develop such competence. However, competence may (in some cases) necessarily include medical fitness and physical / mental aptitude for the activity

Further information on planning and organising lifting operations go to our Training and Competency page

Provide correct workplace facilities

Providing the right workplace facilities will help protect the safety and health of everyone who works in, or visits your business.

By law you must provide a safe work place.  You need to consider welfare facilities, health issues and safety issues in your workplace.

Welfare facilities for your employees will include:

  • toilets and washbasins with hot and cold water, soap and hand drying facilities
  • drinking water
  • storage areas for outdoor clothing and changing facilities if needed
  • somewhere to rest and eat meals.

A healthy working environment will need to have:

  • good ventilation – either fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system
  • a comfortable working temperature, unless other laws require a lower temperature – if this is the case then protective clothing and or regular breaks in a heated area will have to be provided
  • suitable natural or artificial light for the work being carried out
  • a clean workspace with facilities for disposing of waste
  • suitable work stations and seating with adequate room.

To keep your workplace safe you must:

  • adequately maintain your premises and all work equipment
  • keep floors, stairs and traffic routes free from obstruction
  • have windows that can be safely opened
  • make sure that any transparent material such as glass doors or walls are clearly visible and either protected or made of safety materials.

Ensure adequate arrangements for first aid, accidents and ill health

You must have first-aid arrangements in your workplace. You are responsible for making sure that injured or ill employees receive immediate attention. Specific health and safety arrangements will depend on the particular circumstances in your workplace. It is your responsibility to assess what these arrangements are but, as a minimum, you must have:

  • a suitably stocked first aid kit
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements in the workplace
  • information for all staff giving details of first-aid arrangements in the workplace.

You may need a trained first-aider.  This is someone who holds a qualification in first aid at work or emergency first aid at work

Investigating accidents/incidents allows you to understand the reasons why and implement procedures to reduce it happening again. The law says that you must report certain accidents, incidents and cases of work-related disease

For further information on reporting accidents, incidents click here»

Buy and display a health and safety law poster

The law says that if you employ anyone you must display the health and safety law poster where staff can easily read it. The alternative is to provide staff with a copy of the equivalent pocket card.

The health and safety law poster informs staff what they and their employers need to do. There is also room to add details of workplace health and safety representatives or health and safety contacts.

A new health and safety law poster was published in 2009. Any workplace that is displaying the older 1999 health and safety law poster must replace it with the new version by 5th April 2014.

Arrange insurance for your business

Employers’ liability insurance covers you against claims from employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their work.

Most businesses are required to have employers’ liability insurance.  You can buy this insurance through insurers, insurance brokers or trade associations.  It often comes as part of an insurance package for businesses but you will need to check specific cover on any policy you take out.  The policy must be with an authorised insurer.

Keep Health and Safety arrangements up to date

As an employer you must review your health and safety policy and your risk assessment on a regular basis. Carrying out an audit/inspections are a vital element of any safety management system. They should be used to determine whether you are meeting the standards you have set for your workplace and work activities. They are important because if they are carried out effectively, they allow you to identify and remedy problems before they become more serious or result in an incident or accident.

What are safety audits/inspections?

A safety audit/inspection is a structured process whereby information is collected relating to the efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability of the total health and safety management system of a company. Safety audits are conducted in compliance with legislation, and are used as a guide for designing plans for corrective actions within a health and safety program.

What does the law say?

General Health and Safety Legislation requires employers to provide a safe place of work, safe access and egress and safe plant, equipment and systems of work. You need to carry out inspections in order to see whether you are providing and maintaining a safe workplace and working arrangements.

Where there are specific requirements, the legislation usually states how often the inspections need to be carried out or that it should be carried out in accordance with a written scheme of examination drawn up by a competent person.

Who should carry out an inspection?

Many people can carry out inspections for any number of reasons. External inspections could be carried out by enforcement officers, insurers or by a specialist inspector but you should not rely on these external inspections to ensure your workplace is safe as it may not be and incur improvement notices, prohibition notices and even fines.

External consultants will provide impartial advice and assist in implementing systems and controlling measures to keep the company within the law.

Employers, supervisors and employees safety representatives, might carry out internal inspections for their area or department.

Inspections can be planned or carried out without warning to determine whether adequate standards are being maintained.

A positive attitude to health and safety in the workplace makes good business sense. The aim of health and safety law is to help prevent people being harmed by work activities. The main piece of legislation is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA).  The Act places a legal duty on employers to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of those who work for them and other people who enter the workplace are protected. It also places a duty on people at work to take “reasonable care for their own health and safety and for the health and safety of other people who may be affected by their acts or omissions”.  (HSWA) is supported by Regulations, Codes of Practice and Guidance relating to a range of work activities and specific hazards.

Currently health and safety enforcement in the United Kingdom is split between local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).  As a guide, higher risk businesses such as manufacturing and construction are enforced by the HSE. Local authorities will generally enforce health and safety law in lower risk businesses.

Do I need and outside training provider or can I do it in house?

All people using equipment at work must be adequately trained to ensure they understand and carry out the safe use of the work equipment they are expected to use. Some work activities require detailed formal training by a registered instructor holding the specific category of plant or equipment, but, for most everyday activities involving work equipment, adequate training can be delivered in-house using the manufacturer’s instructions and the background knowledge / skills of more experienced workers and managers.

People should be competent for the work they undertake. Training – along with knowledge, experience and skill – helps develop such competence. However, competence may (in some cases) necessarily include medical fitness and physical / mental aptitude for the activity.

Why do I need Planning for lifting operations?

The Lifting Operation and Lifting Equipment Regulations state, if your business or organisation undertakes lifting operations or is involved in providing lifting equipment for others to use, you must manage and control the risks to avoid any injury or damage.

Where you undertake lifting operations involving lifting equipment you must:

  • plan them properly
  • using people who are sufficiently competent
  • supervise them appropriately
  • to ensure that they are carried out in a safe manner

In planning any lifting operation, the identification and assessment of risk is key to identifying the most appropriate equipment and method for the job. Lifting operations range from:

  • the very simple and commonplace, where minimal on-the-job planning by trained, competent people may be all that is needed to manage risk; to
  • very complex operations, which require sophisticated and detailed planning / records, with very high levels of expert input, monitoring and supervision – undertaken by specially trained personnel

The complexity of the plan and the extent of the resources used to manage risk must reflect the complexity and difficulty of the lifting operation.

Further information on planning and organising lifting operations go to our lifting operations page»