Several hundred people are killed each year and hundreds of thousands suffer ill health and injury at work. Following standard health and safety procedures is essential for every business to help ensure the happiness and security of both staff and visitors
Benefits of sound health and safety procedures
- Boost productivity – accidents can have a significant effect on productivity, playing on the minds of staff members and generally taking their minds off work. Good health and safety means fewer incidents and a healthier working atmosphere which can increase productivity and profits
- Reputation – workplaces with good health and safety records are attractive to B2B and B2C clients, whereas those with regular incidents may appear to be sloppy and badly organised. You’ll also find it easier to attract key talent with a reputation for putting staff safety first
- Staff retention – poor health and safety may encourage staff to jump ship to another organisation where working will be safer. This can increase your recruitment, selection and training costs
- Reduce premiums – good health and safety practices are likely to reduce your insurance premiums as insurers value an obvious commitment to worker safety
Carry out a risk assessment
Eliminating risk is not the point of health and safety procedures; they are designed to recognise risk and reduce the chance of injury and death by taking proactive measures. The first step is to create an inventory of risks in the workplace, called a risk assessment. Walk round your workplace with a clipboard and note down any potential hazards and how serious an injury they could cause, in addition to any action that should be taken to reduce the risk. If you employ five or more people you must write down the main risks found and any conclusions you have drawn, such as action that needs to be taken and who is most at risk
Take out suitable insurance policies
With regard to health and safety companies should ensure they have both public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance. The former is designed to cover businesses in the event of injury or loss to third parties (not including employees), and will pay for legal fees, damages and hospital costs. The latter policy is broadly similar to public liability insurance except it is designed to cover claims from employees and ex-employees. Please read our guides to public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance for more information
Appoint a competent person
You must legally appoint a ‘competent person’ to help you meet health and safety obligations. This person does not have to be a professional and can be yourself, your workers or someone from outside the business. Competent persons are defined as those who have the skills or knowledge necessary to assist them in their roles: the skills and knowledge required will depend on the complexity of your case.
Write your health and safety policy
Businesses with more than five employees are legally required to have a formal health and safety policy, which sets out your general approach to health and safety and important procedures you have put in place to mitigate risk. It does not have to be complicated; you may wish to write your objectives in bullet points and simply note how each procedure will help you achieve your objectives. Remember: you must act on your health and safety policy for it to be effective.
Provide basic welfare provisions
Ensure staff are provided with adequate welfare provisions including clean and safe restroom facilities, available drinking water at all times and also a comfortable temperature and adequate lighting that allows them to perform their duties safely at all times. If you have pregnant women or nursing mothers on your staff you are legally required to provide dedicated places to eat and rest. Companies should read The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (PDF, 90kb) – these provide a full breakdown of provisions businesses must meet in order to be fully compliant.
Provide basic health and safety training
You need to provide free health and safety training to all employees that work for you. This may include instructions on how to adjust their workstations and monitor heights for office environments. Letting your staff know where the fire exits are located, and where to congregate in the event of a fire, is essential.
Display the health and safety poster
The health and safety poster is a standard design that must by law be publically situated if you take on any staff. It includes basic health and safety information, standard procedures along with who is responsible in your organisation for health and safety provisions. It must be readable and easily viewed by all employees
Sources of help and advice
Health and safety can be confusing for first-time business owners. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides a wealth of useful advice. Alternatively you may wish to contact local councils, safety groups, trade unions and associations and health and safety training providers for targeted advice related to your business.