Health & Safety can be complex, but it’s extremely important to get your head around it. With the cost to UK businesses of injury and ill health caused by workplace incidents at 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 in place to ensure that employees can go about their 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 or expensive.
You can achieve best Health & Safety practice for your workforce in 2019, by following these six simple steps.
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 you had last year, and how does this compare to the previous year? How seriously do your line managers take the issue of Health & Safety? Plus, are 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. If you are the leader of the business you have a responsibility to ensure H&S is being managed, controlled and Monitored, ask yourself “ am I confident this is the case” if not take action.
Contrary to what many people think, risk assessments are not required for every single day-to-day activity. 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? Make sure you publish these risk assessments to the staff they relate to or the people exposed to the hazards. Lastly use the risk assessment to generate a safe system of work and make these available also.
A written Health and Safety policy is only required if you have five or more employees, although even if your business is smaller, it’s an excellent way of communicating your commitment to Health & Safety and your legal obligations. It should clearly define who is responsible, what is required and how Health & Safety is managed within the business. And, if you already have one in place, when was the last time you read your H&S policy? It might be time to review your policy and make sure it’s still applicable to your business, and reflects any recent changes in your operations, work premises or workforce. Review it, update it as necessary and sign and re-date it each year.
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. Ignorance of the law is not a defence so ensure you know what applies to your business.
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.
Review your training records to date, and make sure they’re all up-to-date. Identify who requires specialist training to undertake their role safely and who could do with a refresher training course. For instance, address who works at heights, deals with manual handling, or needs to made aware of asbestos safety, and consider your fire warden and first aiders.
But it’s not all about safety. Mental health in the workplace is a hot topic that gained an increasing amount of coverage in the media during 2018. Untreated mental health illnesses, such as depression and anxiety cost businesses in terms of reduced production levels and absence. The benefits of having a happy and healthy workforce far outweigh any investment that would be needed into wellbeing initiatives, helping to improve your employees’ wellbeing at work.
These are all fairly simple tasks to undertake to make sure your Health & Safety house is in order for 2019. It doesn’t need to be complicated or take up valuable management time, but remember you do have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment. Whatever you do, don’t put your employees at risk and make sure your Health & Safety management is refreshed and relevant.
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