Most of us sigh at the mention of health and safety but whether it is used as a stick to warn us of the dire consequences or as an encouragement to remain legal and genuinely safe we have to ‘comply’
So, what then is meant by compliance? Fairly simple really- meet the needs of the legislation within your country of employment and the regulations affecting the areas you work. There are some differences for example in legislation within Northern Ireland but they generally follow the same path, which (dare we mention it) followed European directives.
The guidance provided by the Government website is excellent- https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/index.htm however it remains with us as individuals /managers/directors to implement what it says and the real challenge is finding someone who can do the following:
- Keep up to date with changing laws and regulations
- Be practical in communicating and explaining what is involved, in making people safe and compliance.
- Training and encouraging healthy practices from the start
- Not ‘letting things go’
- Keeping the correct records.
As an employer of greater than 5 employees there are specific defined requirements by the law, these are quite detailed and the following examples are provided as an appetiser;
- Appoint a competent person
- Prepare a health and safety policy
- Complete risk assessments
- Provide information and training
- Have the right workplace facilities
- Provide a first aider
- Display the safety at work poster
- Get insurance for your business
- Know the law affecting your business
- Report accidents and illnesses
It is most important to recognise that the success of Health and Safety in any business or activity relies upon both the employer and the employee. In the next few areas of discussion always consider what are the consequences of employees not taking care themselves or of the employer not providing reasonable conditions. Both have to work to get things right and a valuable word within health and safety law (have a look at your Health & Safety at Work Poster for the word ‘cooperation’)
In practice we all want our employees to work in a safe environment. This applies to wherever they work whether it is in an office, a lorry, an assembly line or a workshop. In looking at these places of work we must consider what risks to health might be evident. The recent additional risk of Coronovirus has immediately added more thoughts for each of us on thinking about methods of working to reduce or remove the risk to the best of our ability. The rapidly changing rules over the last 18 months or so have also shown us how important it is to keep updated on the changes to the law.
Ensuring your workplace is safe can be a pain free experience, just approach it in the correct manner! If you look at an administration business, what are our risks? Examples include, use of electricity, trailing cables, overweight lifting, working at height using shelves and the usual kitchen facilities. There is a need to look at individuals working in the environment, do they have special needs such as poor eyesight, difficulty hearing or mobility concerns. Design the environment to meet their needs as well as the ‘average’. Staff need to be tidy, use steps, take care when moving around- generally I always prompt new starters at induction on the need to have care and thought for your fellow workers. Nothing can demoralise any work culture more than individuals who do not care.
The thoughts from a simple admin role translate to more complex situations such as factory or workshop activities. Electricity, mechanical maintenance, lifting heavy weights and ‘housekeeping’ all overlap. The additional concerns arise from ‘what’ we are doing. Painting activities will use solvents, these will create risks of vapour inhalation, fire, skin concerns and more. Working with other businesses introduces more risks to your staff. Take for example a Lorry driver collecting Timber roof frames for delivery to a building site. Does the drive know the risks on building sites ( which are one of the highest accident rate activities in the UK), do they know how to strap the trusses if all they delivered before was pallets, can they offload without help, does the customer refuse to help? Your competent person needs to be up to speed on dealing with these and the management skills to discuss and convince.
We do have to produce a minimum of paperwork or electronic based information. As a taster in recognising our responsibilities (for 5 persons and above) we must produce the following as a review of risks ;
- an official record of what the assessment finds (your employer has to put plans in place to deal with the risks)
- a formal health and safety policy which includes arrangements to protect your health and safety (you should be told what these are)
Examples of what the law also requires includes-
- A health and safety poster
- A record of accidents
- Reporting of accidents in accordance with RIDDOR
- Proof of training and competence
There is a wealth of information presented in a relatively simple manner on, for example, the UK Gov Website https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/index.htm and other professional sectors such as IOSH https://iosh.com/.
- In setting up a business start as you mean to go on- train people in all the important aspects of their work, implement your actions.
- Maintain communication and a healthy culture
- Document and report what the laws and regulations require.
- Whenever in doubt ask, do not attempt something without knowing the full risks.
Its better stop what you are doing and ask, rather than risk damage or injury to you, your colleagues or others that might be life changing in consequences.
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