It is an employer's duty to abide by health and safety law to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. It is also crucial for the growth and development of your business that your employees are working in a suitably healthy environment that will be conducive to their work. This article will discuss health and safety employer responsibilities and tips for satisfying them.
Appoint a health and safety Representative
In order to satisfy the health and safety legal requirements, employers must appoint a competent person to ensure their business fulfils their health and safety duties. This person can be the employer themselves, if the business does not demand expert help or experience. This person will ensure that health and safety at work is taken seriously and can also provide or recommend health and safety training to the rest of the company.
Create a health and safety policy
Having appointed a health and safety contact in your business, you should work with that individual to devise a health and safety policy suitable for your business. Within this policy you should outline your ongoing commitment to the health and safety of your employees and how you intend to achieve such.
Within their policy an employer must outline:
- Contact details of the health and safety contact
- Who has responsibilities relating to health and safety
- The safety responsibilities of people undertaking tasks relating to health and safety
- When those persons responsible for areas of health and safety are expected to perform their commitments
- How those persons responsible for areas of health and safety are to go about performing those commitments.
Once you have drafted this policy you should take reasonable care to ensure that all members of the business adhere to it and implement it.
If your business has less than five employees then a health and safety policy (in written form) is not compulsory but, of course, is still recommended.
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Employers should also undertake a risk assessment of their business and place of work in order to assess workplace health and flag potential hazards. You should think about what might cause harm to your employees, and other visitors. It is recommended that you move around your workplace, noting anything of significance- not just mere everyday risks. You should consider the chance of a risk materialising and focus your attention on real risks you believe have the potential to materialise.
Completing a risk assessment does not mean that you are obligated to remove all risks you have identified. Instead, you must think of ways in which you can control those risks, such as:
- Considering your floorplanning
- Signs and warnings
- Securing fixtures
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Safe work equipment and safe systems of work
You are only expected to assess risks that are reasonably known: you are not required to identify unforeseeable risks that might occur. You must however consider all people that could be harmed, taking into account the diverse needs and capabilities of individuals. This includes not just your employees but visitors and contractors.
You can use the Health and safety executive's (HSE) risk assessment tools to help you complete a risk assessment and view a selection of exemplar assessments to know what is to be expected of you.
Much like a health and safety policy, if you have fewer than five employees then you do not need to produce a written risk assessment.
If your business necessarily involves high-risk activities, such as working from a height, then it is important to check whether you need a licence but also whether there are certain safety standards mandated by law.
Is your workplace adequate?
Having adequate facilities in your workplace is crucial to ensure your staff can observe health and safety policies. You should ensure your workplace provides:
- Toilets and washbasins with adequate sanitary products, such as soap and towels
- Somewhere to eat (away from an employee’s desk)
- Somewhere to rest (away from an employee’s desk)
- Drinking water
- A place to store items
- Good ventilation and a reasonable working temperature
- Adequate lighting
- Sufficient space
- Waste containers
You must also have first-aid arrangements to ensure that, in the event of injury, that your employees or visitors can receive immediate attention. You should ensure there is a suitably stocked first aid box and a point of contact in case of emergency. You must outline the first-aid arrangements to all employees. Where accidents or injuries do arise you must ensure that you keep suitable records of these. This will be used if the employee makes work-related claims but will also be useful for you to review your health and safety practices and for future risk assessments.
You should also ensure that your workplace is properly maintained, with clear pathways, free of obstruction. You should also ensure that your windows and doors are protected and can be opened and closed safely. Since the pandemic, employers should also ensure that coronavirus mitigation and safety procedures are implemented at the office to make it a safe place to work.
Communicate with and to your employees
It is crucial that your employees are also informed about potential risks that might materialise. You should provide your staff with adequate training and make them aware of potential risks or hazards. You should also outline the measures you have taken to respond to certain risks, particularly if they do not eliminate a risk but merely reduce it. Emergency procedures, such as in the case of a fire, should also be outlined.
It is crucial that the information you provide is not over-complicated: it should be easily understandable by all employees and contractors.When training your employees, this should take place during working hours (as specified in their employment agreement) and employees must not pay for this service or time.
You must also display health and safety law posters in your premises, or provide employees with an equivalent card. These posters are downloadable here and include a simple list that outlines what employees and employers should do to keep safe.
Assuming your business as employees, you will need employers’ liability insurance that can compensate your employees if they become injured or ill as a result of the work they undertake under their contract. You may not need insurance if your business is family run, or your employees are closely related but generally speaking most businesses will need it.
Employee Health and Wellbeing
Your employee’s health and wellbeing is crucial to their health and safety in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that, in accordance with the Working Time Regulations 1998 that workers have adequate breaks (a minimum of a 20 minutes uninterrupted break when working for more than 6 hours daily). Getting employees mobile, or installing standing desks, is also crucial for their own health, wellbeing and work productivity. You should also ensure that your employee’s workloads are manageable, so that they do not suffer from fatigue or severe stress. Over labouring your employees will not only put their health and safety at risk but it will affect your business in the long run, perhaps creating absences from work or in making your company unattractive to future prospective employees and even investors. The HSE recommends “Management Standards” to ensure that your company has an adequate framework to enhance and manage employee wellbeing.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.