Everyone has a part to play in health and safety at work. You are not only responsible for your own health and safety but also the health and safety of others in the workplace.
But the ultimate responsibility falls down to the employer in making sure their business complies with the Health and Safety at Work Act. This is because they have a ‘duty of care’.
The main purpose of it is to encourage high standards and prevent people coming to harm whilst they are at work.
In general, health and safety laws apply to all businesses. Whether as part of a large company or for the self-employed person, the laws are there to protect you, your employees and the public.
But the approach needed is proportionate to the size of the business, and the business activity. If you have more than 5 employees, these policies must be in writing and ensure that everyone is aware of what it says. But it is good practice regardless of how many employees there are.
What Does A Health And Safety Policy Cover?
Your health and safety policy should contain your general approach. It ensures safe equipment, a healthy working environment, establishes procedures, and provides training.
It is also important to keep it as simple as possible so that everyone can understand what your intent is.
Individuals also need to know what their role is in making the working environment a safe place. This also includes procedures they should follow every day to ensure all work gets conducted safely.
The policy should also cover what they need to do when things go wrong, such as dealing with an accidental injury or evacuating in a fire.
To ensure any policy stays relevant, it also needs reviewing periodically. Performing risk assessments can bring up areas where this needs improving.
Accidents And Their Prevention
By definition, an accident is an unplanned or uncontrolled event. But despite that, you can still prevent one from happening.
Once you are aware of the hazards that exist, you can control the risks and start preventing accidents. There are three factors which commonly cause problems in the workplace:
Occupational – This is an injury or illness which is directly linked to their work. These include lifting and carrying, and the use of tools and equipment.
Environmental – These are the conditions of the workplace, which ensure the safety of workers. This means providing sufficient heating, ventilation, lighting, and space.
Human – Human factors such as haste, tiredness, distraction and complacency are harder to control. By giving everyone correct training, you can limit the accidents from inexperience or unprofessionalism.
Ensuring that all accidents get logged means you’ll have a record which can allow you to review and analyse common incidents. So you’ll need to ensure everything gets recorded, such as near misses, minor and major injuries or damage.
First Aid Regulations
Under the health and safety law, employers also have a responsibility to provide enough first aid provision. It not only has to meet the demands of the number of people there, but also the nature of any potential accidents.
First aid kits should be easy to access in a container which protects the content and informs people what it is. Everyone needs to be aware of its location so anyone can find it quickly in an emergency.
The contents of the kit are not mandatory. However, an assessment should help you to determine what you need to have in the first aid kit.
You also need to have individuals with first aid training. People who volunteer to be a first aider will require initial training, and then refresher training every year. The people who put themselves forward for this need to be able to remain calm and handle stress, as well as respond rapidly to an emergency.
Legislation, Penalties, And Enforcement
Further to the Health and Safety at Work Act, many other areas have additional legislation in place. You need to ensure you comply with all relevant legislations to avoid punishment. These include manual handling, working at height, and fire safety, to name but a few.
Health and Safety Executive Inspectors and Local Enforcement Authorities enforce the act. They ensure that standards get kept up and offer any necessary advice. But in instances where there is an unacceptable level of risk, they will serve a legal notice.
An Improvement Notice states when something is wrong, what needs doing and the timescale for completing the work.
When there is an immediate danger to individuals, a prohibition notice gets given. This type of notice will prevent an activity from getting carried out, or halt all work from continuing.
Any breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act fall under criminal law. This means that cases get heard in Magistrates’ Courts where fines of up to £20,000 can get issued.
More serious breaches get referred to the Crown Courts. Here, the maximum penalty is unlimited and can impose prison sentences of up to 2 years.
It’s important to remember that it exists to protect everyone. It helps businesses to follow good safety practices, can help to prevent fires and save everyone should a fire occur.
The risk of not meeting the act can be costly. Not only to your wallet but to lives and livelihoods as well.
It’s easy to think that there is a lot of complicated stuff to deal with, but it’s there to protect everyone involved. Not only does it limit the likelihood of damage or injury, it protects you in case something does happen. If you can prove everything possible was in place to prevent it, you shouldn’t be liable for any damages.
So ensure you are taking your responsibilities seriously. And make sure you’re doing everything in your power to protect your workforce, and everyone else.
This information is only a summary of the main rights and responsibilities covered by the legislation. For a comprehensive list, please refer to the legislation here.