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Small Business Health & Safety Checklist

As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees and any other person who may be affected by your business activities. The approach you take should be proportionate to the size and nature of your business, but even small companies have minimum requirements which, if not complied with, can lead to serious consequences for business’, business owners, managers and even employees, such as unlimited fines for individuals and business’, personal imprisonment and disqualification from directorships. 

The main provisions you need to make are:

  • Provide a written health & safety policy (for businesses with 5 or more people);
  • Assess any risks to employees, customers and any other people who may be affected by day to day operations;
  • Plan, monitor and review protective measures;
  • Communicate and consult with employees about the risks involved in their work and make them aware of health & safety policies and procedures.

This check list is not-exhaustive, but should give you an overall understanding of your responsibilities and the steps you need to undertake to meet those responsibilities.

Appoint someone to manage your health & safety

It is essential to have a competent person responsible for your business’ health and safety. The individual needs to have the relevant knowledge, training and understanding of what is required. Any responsible person within your organisation can be appointed to this role, however, as a small business, you may find that no one has the skills that the position demands and consider outsourcing to a specialist health & safety consultant. You may also find this useful if your business operates in a higher risk environment.

Write a Health & Safety Policy

A written health and safety policy is only required if you have five or more employees. However, regardless of the size of the company, it is a way of communicating both your commitment and legal obligations to your staff. It should clearly define who is responsible, what is required and how health & safety is managed within the business.

Assess the Risks

It is impractical to expect all risks to be completely removed from the workplace, but you need to ensure there are adequate controls to identify and reduce risks to employees and members of the public. Depending on the nature of your business, you may see yourself as low-risk, but undertaking a risk assessment relevant to your activities will help bring to light any areas that you may not have previously considered. Higher-risk working environments (such as working at heights, asbestos removal or working with chemicals) may require additional guidance from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Once you have undertaken your risk assessment, consider what preventative measures are in place and what further action needs to be taken.

Provide training and information to employees

Your employees need to know how to undertake their roles safely and know what risks they may encounter which can be covered with the right information and training. You don’t necessarily need to go to the expense of providing specialist training where it isn’t needed, but on the other hand, making sure your employees are adequately equipped to handle their roles is important. A specialist training advisor will be able to help you make the right judgement call when it comes to skills training and help you keep up-to-date records of what has been covered and what still needs to be addressed.

The health and safety law poster

As an employer, you need to display the “Health & Safety – What You Need to Know Poster” or issue the leaflet or pocket card version to all staff, these are available for free from the Health and Safety Executive website. While displaying a the poster may seem almost trivial, it is however a  legal requirement.

The poster and leaflets outline the basic health & safety laws and include information about what employers and workers need to do.

Reporting to the authorities

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations (RIDDOR), you must report certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease to the HSE.

Keeping records will help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment. While accidents involving people being absent from work for seven or more days must be reported under RIDDOR, you are still required to maintain records of all 3 day or more absences

Keep your business up to date

Once you’ve got your health & safety management in order, it’s important to make sure you periodically review your policies and procedures taking into account any new legislation. You may need to undertake further risk assessments or provide more specialist training taking into account any changes to your business activities or the work your employees are undertaking. 

This article first appeared in "Business Connected" 2016

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