A good starting point for any employer concerned about health & safety provision is to identify areas of accident risk . A risk profile looks at the nature and level of threats that face an organisation, how likely the risks are to come about, the consequences of the risk occurring and the effectiveness of the measures that are being taken to control the threat. Once the risks are identified an employer can then prioritise them.
Remember – it is not all about the worst case scenario – rather, you should be thinking about what is actually likely to happen.
It is worthwhile (and a legal requirement) to consult your employees on health & safety matters. Get to know how they go about their daily work so that you can understand where and when they might encounter hazards.
Keep records and investigate
The current government is keen to cut red tape and there is no doubt that for low risk businesses there is no need for lengthy policy documents or unduly complicated risk assessment forms but it is advisable (even if you employ fewer than five people) to keep a written record of your health & safety measures. Accidents and claims can happen. If they do you want to be in a position to demonstrate the measures that you had taken.
As a minimum it is worth ensuring that you have your health & safety policy in writing, risk assessments are stored, you keep a record of accidents and near miss incidents and that you regularly review all of the documentation to ensure that it meets your current circumstances.
Many accidents at work, including serious ones are not properly investigated. Up to three years can pass before a court action needs to be raised. Often this is the first time an accident is subjected to critical analysis. In the meantime the chance to gather evidence can be lost, witnesses may forget what happened or have their recollection skewed or affected by discussions with third parties who may have their own agendas. A photograph of the accident scene along with short statements and a simple sketch can be invaluable at a later date.
Health & safety law requires an employer to have access to competent advice but the need for competence goes further. It is important that everybody in your organisation from the managing director to the health & safety officer to those working on the shop floor understands how they are to go about their work so that they can do so safely and without harming others.
Clean and tidy
It may sound simplistic but if you keep your workplace clean and tidy then that in itself may clear away any number of potential hazards.
There are specific regulations that require your premises and equipment to be in a safe condition. The best way to achieve this is to have in place a system of planned preventative maintenance. That means routinely checking the condition of the building and equipment, with a view to identifying work that needs to be done before a defect occurs.
Ensure that you have a fire safety policy in place. This should include, but will not be limited to, developing an emergency evacuation plan that should be tested with fire drills at least once per year.
The level of first aid provision that you will require will depend upon the number of people within your premises and the level of risk associated with your activities. For a small office it may be that having an appropriately stocked first aid box and appointing somebody to ensure that is kept updated may suffice. For others it may be appropriate to ensure that you have employees with up to date first aid qualifications on site at all times.
Be aware of any vulnerable workers that you may have on your premises. For example, if you employ young people then you may wish to give particular attention to ensuring that they are adequately supervised.
Tackle work-related stress
It is very easy to underestimate the impact of work-related stress, or to categorise it as an HR issue. In fact, preventing work-related stress is a legitimate health & safety issue that is to be addressed using risk assessment principles. It is likely to require input from both your health & safety and HR advisors.