Health and safety: your essential guide

Managing health and safety doesn't have to be complicated, costly or time-consuming. In fact, it’s easier than you think.

It is an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business.  In general, health and safety laws apply to all business'. 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.

If you are setting up your businesses' health and safety policy from scratch or looking for some key points to follow on your current health and safety plans then look no further than our handy 7 point guide below.  We have even created a handy infographic containing all these points for you to print out and keep.

The infographic will take you through the steps you need to set up a basic health and safety policy for your premises,  helping you understand what you must do to make sure that your business complies with health and safety law.

Our guide and infographic - based on the HSE’s own documentation - provides basic information on what  you need to do to comply with health and safety law.

1. Establish the size of your business - The best place to start would be to look at the size of your business, the nature of your business activity and how many employees you have. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward.

If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or your health and safety policy. If your business grows and you hire more employees you will regularly need to update your policy as what will work for a small business will not work for a large scale company with many employees.

2. Appoint a competent person - If you are running a small business, you may prefer to take charge of this yourself or entrust an employee. If you are running a large business, perhaps even working from multiple premisses, then it may be an idea to seek help externally to assist you with you health and safety policies.

WorkRite offer a range of consultancy services to help you get set up. Our consultants will ensure that your procedures, policies, documentation, risk assessments, training programmes and so on are all properly maintained while you concentrate on running your business.

3. Carry out Risk Assessments - Once you have established who your health and safety representative will be, its time to look at how to prevent accidents in your workplace. The best way to do this is to carry out a risk assessment. A risk assessment is a systematic examination of a task, job or process that you carry out at work for the purpose of identifying the significant hazards that are present (a hazard is something that has the potential to cause someone harm or ill health).

If you find anything that may cause harm, record this on your Risk Assessment and then make sure that plans are set in place to make sure you take the measures to ensure that the hazard is corrected. For example, a loose collection of cables are tied together and out of staffs way, that a leaking sink is fixed to prevent someone slipping over on water and a warning sign is placed to notify employees in the meantime.

Risk Assessments should also be reviewed on a regular basis; monthly, annually, bi-annually - depending on risk -  or if something changes,  such as a new worker or a change of process. Risk assessments should also be carried out to satisfy the requirements of legislation but above all to ensure the health & safety of employees.

WorkRite also offer guidance and further help when conducting risk assessments as well as our own risk management system software.

4. Write a health and safety policy - not compulsory, but it may be a good idea as it keeps your employees in the know. To help you the HSE have created a very useful template that you can download and complete.

Don't forget to also check with your employees about H&S relating to their work and how you could deliver information and training. This information will be beneficial when you are completing a risk assessment and makes it easier for you to find out what risks you need to look out for, especially if the employee is based in a separate location that you only visit from time to time.

5. Give staff training and information - Don't forget to provide your staff training on how to keep safe and aware of risks in their working environment too! If you have a large amount of staff to train you may find our E-learning courses such as Slips, Trips and Falls, or Office Health & Safety Awareness are good starting points.

6. Get Employers’ liability insurance - This is a legal requirement for employers. Your policy must cover you for at least £5 million and come from an authorised insurer. You can also be fined £1,000 if you do not display your EL certificate or refuse to make it available to inspectors when they ask. Find out more about EL insurance here.

7.  Keep Health and Safety in check! - No matter what environment your staff work in, you need to make sure that they are comfortable and equipped for the work the need to do, and that the equipment is safe to use. Make sure it is properly maintained, and if needed, regularly checked and PAT tested if it is electronic.

A must-have is a well stocked first aid box, an appointed First Aid person and a record of injuries / incidents. (if you have more than 10 employees you definitely need to do this!)

Pin health and safety posters around your premises for staff to refer to. To get you started we have a selection of health and safety posters on topics such as manual handling and office ergonomics here.

Whether you are a new business owner starting out or a well established firm looking to improve on your polices, health and safety should be a top priority for your company. Getting your health and safety policies right means that you will be rewarded with happy, healthy and productive staff in the long run.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a WorkRite consultant about how we can help you set up a health and safety policy for your business please contact us or call us on 0345 325 0030.