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Blog Post

Managing Health and Safety

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Managing health and safety doesn’t have to be complicated, costly or time consuming. If you have taken reasonable steps to prevent accidents or harm to your employees (and the injury or illness was caused after 1 October 2013), you shouldn’t have to pay compensation. 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. This guide will take you through the steps and help you make sure you have done what you need to – and no more. 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.

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.

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. The policy does not need to be complicated or time-consuming.

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 should record your significant findings, but there is no need to record everyday risks.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. For most low-risk businesses controlling risks is straightforward. HSE has created tools to help you.

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.

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.

Welfare facilities For your employees’ well-being you need to provide:

• 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);
• somewhere to rest and eat meals. Health issues To have a healthy working environment, 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 ºC, or 13 ºC 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.

To keep your workplace safe you must:

• properly maintain your premises and work equipment;
• keep floors and traffic routes free from obstruction;
• have windows that can be opened and also cleaned safely;
• make sure that any transparent (eg glass) doors or walls are protected or made of safety material.

You must have first-aid arrangements in your workplace. You are responsible for making sure your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or are injured at work. Accidents and illness can happen at any time and first aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones. Your 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. You might decide that you need a first-aider. This is someone who has been trained by a competent first-aid training provider

Accidents and ill health Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.

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. The poster outlines British health and safety laws and includes a straightforward list that tells workers what they and their employers need to do. You can also add details of any employee safety representatives or health and safety contacts if you wish to do so.

If your business has employees 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. Meeting your health and safety duties is easier than you think. As long as you have taken reasonable steps to prevent accidents or harm to your employees (and the injury or illness was caused after 1 October 2013), you shouldn’t have to pay compensation. However, if a court finds you are liable, employers’ liability insurance will help you to pay any compensation for your employees’ injuries or illness. Only a few businesses are not required to have employers’ liability insurance. If you have no employees, or are a family business and all employees are closely related to you, you may not need it.

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