Health and safety is not a subject that should ever be taken lightly. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure the health and safety of anyone who comes into contact with your operation. That includes yourself, your employees (if you have any), and any members of the public. A preventable workplace incident has consequences that reach far beyond the unfortunate victim. Your employees, your own reputation and that of your business will suffer too, and recovering a lost reputation after a serious incident can be impossible.
The best time to take action to improve workplace health and safety is before anything actually goes wrong. Planning, preventing and recording are key to success, and there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure you have a decent health and safety system in place. The rules around documenting your health and safety system vary depending on how many employees you have. If in doubt, it is always best to seek professional help and guidance.
Health and safety representative
For a small business with low safety risks, you may decide to appoint yourself to this role. If you are an employer, you could appoint a competent employee, or bring in outside help. In a larger or relatively high-risk operation, professional guidance is probably your best option. The health and safety representative is the person who documents the H&S processes and assesses any risks in the operation.
Assess and control risks
This means looking at the potential for your operation to harm anyone who comes into contact with it, and putting reasonable measures in place to prevent that harm happening. For organisations with over 5 employees, you need to keep records of the risk assessments and corrective actions.
Consult and train employees
It’s good practice to involve everyone in health and safety. People who are involved in setting up a system are more likely to buy-into operating it properly. Once the system is set up, you will need to ensure that everyone has access to training and information, and that this is recorded. There are also rules about the provision and display of health and safety law information for employees.
As a minimum, your operation needs to include adequate tools, equipment, hygiene and comfort facilities for everyone involved. In addition to basics such as safety equipment, heating, lighting, toilets, wash basins etc. you will need to make provision for ill-health and accidents, which means an appropriate first-aid capability. This is another area where the requirements vary depending upon the size and nature of your organisation, and decent record-keeping is vital.
Keep yourself informed
Our world is constantly changing, and as a consequence, health and safety systems need updating to keep pace. Once you have established an H&S process, you can’t just assume that the job is done. You need to keep up to date with all the latest requirements, and review the effectiveness of your system in relation to the changes. Further information is available via the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
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