Health & Safety can be a complex yet extremely important issue to get your head around. But with the cost to UK businesses of injury and ill health caused by workplace incidents a staggering £14.3 billion per year, it’s a matter that can’t be ignored. As an employer you have a responsibility to protect the health & safety of your workers and the laws are there to ensure that we can go about our day-to-day business without coming to any harm. That said, if you’re a small, low-risk business, it doesn’t need to be complicated and expensive, so let’s break it down with a few simple things you can do to ensure that you’re following best practice for your workplace health & safety in 2017.
Reassess the H&S of your workforce
It’s not essential to start your health & safety management program from scratch every year, but taking a fresh look at the overall picture of H&S in your workplace can help highlight what is and isn’t working. Think about how many accidents or cases of illness were there last year and is this more or less than the previous year. Have you thought about how seriously your line managers take the issue of Health & Safety? And are all your staff aware of both your and their obligations to help ensure a safe working environment? Gathering some basic information will help you assess how effective your current program is and what steps you need to take to improve it.
Review your risk assessments
Contrary to what many people think, risk assessments are not required for every single activity that takes place during the course of day to day activities. But it is important to review what you are doing on an ongoing basis, particularly if the nature of your operations has evolved. Review your risk assessments and ask if there have been any significant changes in activities, are there areas that need improvement or have any accidents or near misses brought to light any weaknesses?
Review your H&S policies
Although a written health and safety policy is only required if you have five or more employees, it is an excellent way of communicating your commitment to health & safety and your legal obligations, so having one in place regardless of the size of your business is a good idea. It should clearly define who is responsible, what is required and how health & safety is managed within the business. Even if you already have one in place, when was the last time you read your H&S policy? It might be time to take a look at it and make sure it’s not only still applicable to your business, but also reflects any recent changes in your operations, work premises or workforce.
Each year, employers have to deal with a number of new pieces of legislation and changes to existing legislation. The HSE provides advance notice of all the upcoming amendments which need to be adopted by businesses and, over time, incorporated into your health & safety policy. Although it can be a little daunting to face a long list of often confusing legal jargon, there is no excuse for not keeping abreast of new developments. However, a specialist health & safety consultant can take the burden away from you and ensure that any relevant legislation changes are incorporated into your health & safety management.
Invest in Training
One of the easiest ways to help avoid workplace accidents is by providing training that is relevant for the activities being undertaken – it will also ensure you are fulfilling your legal obligation to protect your staff from. Review your training records to date (and update them if you’ve let the admin lapse a little) and identify who requires specialist training to undertake their role safely and who could do with a refresher training course. Examples include: working at heights, manual handling, fire warden, asbestos awareness and first aid.
These are all fairly simple tasks to undertake to make sure your Health & Safety house is all in order for 2017. You don’t need to make it complicated and it doesn’t need to eat up precious amounts of management time, but remember that you do have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment, so don’t put your employees at risk and make sure your health & safety management is refreshed and relevant.