What Is Health And Safety At Work?

When we talk about health and safety at work, we don’t just mean taking the stairs instead of the lift to stay healthy. We are almost always referring to the UK Act of Parliament which is known as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Sometimes referred to as HASAW or HSW, this legislation places a duty on all employers to ensure the health, welfare and safety at work of all their employees, as far as is practical.

Good health and safety practices include:

  • Providing safe entry and exit points to the building
  • Ensuring maintenance and operation of equipment and machinery is up to date and safe
  • Ensuring dangerous substances are used, handled and stored safely
  • Provision has been made for staff welfare in the workplace
  • Staff are trained appropriately to uphold good health and safety

To read the legislation in full, visit the HSE website.

In addition to this, there are three other pieces of legislation you should be aware of that relate to the health and safety of your employees at work:

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: This legislation places a duty on employers to manage risks to their employees and other people in the building that come about due to the nature of their work. Employers must put in place tools and training for dealing with emergencies and may need to monitor the health of their workforce. 
  • Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995: Also known as RIDDOR, this legislation states that employers must report work related diseases, major injuries, deaths and dangerous occurrences when they happen.
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: These regulations place a duty on employers to ensure the working environment is safe and appropriate for the task before any work is carried out there. This means working to eliminate controllable risks and to manage unavoidable hazards to keep your workforce safe. 

For most employers, these regulations and legislations are simply common sense. If you naturally remove trip hazards from your office floor, make sure you have up to date fire extinguishers and take other small measures to ensure a safe working environment, chances are you are not breaching health and safety law.

However, there are some things you must do and some things you must own in order to stay compliant. We’ll help you figure out what and how in this guide.

Your responsibilities as an employer

Keeping your staff safe is your responsibility, but it doesn’t have to feel like a chore. When approached with care and consideration, you will find that most staff are very open to helping you make their workplace safer and more pleasant. Here are some of the things you need to do as an employer to ensure you are taking care of your responsibilities:

Name a competent person

In many cases, particularly where you have identified your business as a low risk business, you could name yourself as the competent person for health and safety or you might want to name a senior member of staff, and if your business is high risk, you may need to bring in an expert to ensure you are staying compliant.

Create a policy

Writing down your health and safety policy not only helps you to think through the issues in a competent, logical way. It also serves to demonstrate your commitment to your staff, customers, trustees and partners, in providing a healthy, safe working environment.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, HSE have developed an example health and safety policy which you can use. There is also a policy template available on their website which will help you approach things in a methodical way.

Your policy should be updated at least once a year, and should form the backbone of you and your employee’s behaviour on site. If you have less than five employees working with you, you don’t need a written health and safety policy, but it can be good practice to do it anyway.

Assess the risks in your workplace

Risk assessments don’t need to take long or to be an arduous process. All you need to think about is what there is in your business that could cause harm to people, and see if you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. HSE provides an online risk assessment tool which will be effective for the majority of businesses.

Talk to your employees

You must consult your employees on health and safety, but it doesn’t need to be a big deal. You should talk to them about the work they do and how to stay safe, ask them about any risks they have identified and discuss the best ways to provide them with suitable information and training. Listening is the most important skill here, and doing something as simple as including health and safety on your meeting agendas is often enough to throw up any issues before they become major problems.

Provide training

Your employees need to know how to work safely without risking their health, so it’s your job to provide training to ensure they can do that. This may be as simple as disseminating guidelines on lifting heavy loads, or could be more complex, such as in-depth training on operating heavy machinery. You should also look to provide instruction in how to deal with emergency situations, and should keep a record of what training has been undertaken, so that you can quickly see when a refresher may be needed.

Provide the right facilities

You must provide the right facilities for your workers. These include:

  • Welfare facilities such as toilets, basins, drinking water and rest areas
  • Health issues such as ventilation, lighting, space and clean workspaces
  • Safety issues such as maintenance of work equipment, storage and safety glass

The precise actions you need to take must be determined yourself. Assessing risks and hazards as well as preparing the workplace appropriately for staff is all part of your ongoing vigilance and understanding of health and safety issues.

Make arrangements for first aid

You must have, in your workplace, a first aid box which is suitably stocked with the items you are most likely to need. You also need to appoint a person to coordinate first aid matters, and must provide information to all employees regarding first aid. This can be done through leaflets, posters and / or training as necessary.

Be aware that major accidents and work-related illnesses must be reported to HSE. You should keep an accident and injury record book so you can refer back to it later if required.

Display the current health and safety law poster

It is a legal requirement to display the health and safety law poster in your place of work. Places like the staff break room or reception area are good locations for this. If it is not practical to put up a poster, you can issue every member of staff with the information in the form of a leaflet or pocket card, downloadable or orderable from the HSE website.

Have insurance

Anyone who has employees working for them should have in place a policy of employer’s liability insurance. You can buy this through brokers, trade associations or insurance companies directly. If you don’t take out this insurance, you risk having to foot the bill yourself if someone becomes sick or injured during the course of their job, and it is determined that your negligence was at fault.

Stay informed

It is your duty to keep up to date with the latest legislation, best practice and advice for your industry. The best place to do this is via the HSE itself, who provide regular updates via free ebulletins, RSS news feeds and podcasts.

Following these simple steps will ensure you’ve done everything you can to maintain good health and safety practice at work. It will mean you remain compliant, avoiding fines and problems with complaints, but more importantly it will ensure you and your staff are safe, and able to do your work in a healthy, pleasant environment. 

At Equip4work, we provide health and safety equipment, designed to help safeguard individuals on your premises. This includes workplace safety signs, first aid supplies, cleaning equipment and further supplies for commercial use. For more information on purchasing health and safety items for your place of work, speak to one of our team, who can advise on choosing products for health and safety in the workplace.

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