The Practical Guide To UK Health & Safety

What Your Business Should Be Doing

Whether you are self-employed or run a large company, you are responsible for the health and safety of the people working for you, as well as anyone else who comes in contact with your business.

Luckily, small businesses that don’t have a high degree of risk only need to take some simple steps. In fact, companies with fewer than five employees don’t even have to write down their risk assessment or health and safety policy.

What you need to do is as follows:

  • Put someone competent in charge of health and safety;
  • Create a health and safety policy;
  • Control the risks;
  • Talk to your staff;
  • Provide training;
  • Provide the right facilities;
  • Make first-aid, accident, and poor-health arrangements;
  • Display the health and safety law poster;
  • Get insurance;
  • Keep your health and safety policy and risk assessment up to date.

Now, let’s take a look at each of these steps a little more in-depth.

Select Someone Competent

The first thing you have to do is choose someone competent who will help you fulfil your health and safety obligations. This person needs to have the skills and experience to manage this area. In other words, you can’t put just anyone in charge of your health and safety duties. They have to know what they’re doing.

You have a number of options in terms of who to appoint:

  • You could be the one in charge of health and safety;
  • You could put one of your employees in charge;
  • You could choose someone outside of the business – like a consultant;
  • Or a combination of any of the above.
Workplace Management Ebook 1
Health and safety meeting

Your approach will largely depend on your expertise with health and safety, as well as the level of the risk associated with your business.

Companies that are low-risk don’t need to bring in expert help necessarily. For example, an accounting firm won’t have the same level of risk as a paint factory, and, implicitly, their health and safety duties will be less complicated.

However, regardless of the level of risk involved in your business, it does pay to get expert help if you aren’t comfortable with health and safety, or if you have little experience with it. The old adage certainly applies that it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

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Create A Health & Safety Policy

The next step is to create a health and safety policy that everyone needs to know about. You have to specify who is responsible for what, when they have to do it, and how.

Note: Companies with fewer than five employees do not need a written health and safety policy.

Your policy doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to create. In fact, more often than not, the simpler and more straightforward it is, the better. As long as you cover all the essential aspects, you’ll be fine. Thus, some of the elements your policy should include are as follows:

  • Safety behaviour
  • People responsible
  • Record-keeping
  • Incident reporting
Create A Health & Safety Policy

However, keep in mind that no matter how great your policy is, if you write it and forget about it, it’s useless. Instead, you should ensure everyone follows it, but also that you review it regularly and update it according to any changes that occur in your business.

Controlling Risks

The first step in controlling risks in your company is to conduct a risk assessment. The latter will help you identify the risks in your workplace and develop a smart approach to keeping those risks under control.

When conducting a risk assessment, you should make a note of important findings but you don’t need to record normal, daily risks. Don’t overcomplicate things and make sure you stay focused on finding ways to control risks.

The law doesn’t expect you to have a crystal ball so you can see into the future and prevent risks that are unforeseeable. You are certainly not expected to remove every possible risk, as that’s pretty much impossible unless you confine your employees to glass bubbles for the rest of their lives – even then there would be some risks involved.

What the law does expect is for you to take reasonable measures to control foreseeable risks and protect your employees.

Thus, your risk assessment only needs to include things you can reasonably be expected to know. For example, a shop owner should know that a wet floor could be a hazard and should take steps to control said risk. However, the law doesn’t expect the same shop owner to anticipate something like a child dropping a toy and then a customer tripping over it and getting hurt.

How To Assess Risks

Assessing the risks in your workplace isn’t difficult, especially for low-risk companies. The following steps should help:

  • Walk around your place of business and look for anything that could cause harm;
  • Consider what the chances are of someone getting hurt by the hazard you have identified;
  • Determine how serious the injury could be;
  • Consider how accidents might take place and who could be hurt in the process;
  • Consult your employees to see what they think the hazards are as they might see things from a different perspective than you;
  • Focus on risks that could cause injury;
  • Assess the measures you’ve already put in place to control risks;
  • Develop appropriate measures to control the risks you haven’t already covered;
  • Record significant findings, making sure that the paperwork will help manage the risks;
  • Inform everyone of what they need to know.

It might sound like a lot of work, and for some larger, higher-risk companies, it might be. But in most cases, it won’t take a lot of time and the small investment of time will be more than worth it.

Also, remember that as your business evolves, so too should your risk assessment. For this reason, it’s a good idea to review the assessment regularly, especially after any significant changes are made.

Keep in mind that the law requires specific measures for some high-risk activities, such as working at height, working with machinery, working with dangerous substances and so on. Depending on your industry, there might be other risks involved as well. In such cases, it’s a good idea to check with an expert before you start work to ensure you are in full compliance.

Talk To Your Employees

You need to talk to everyone who works for you about health and safety. Conferring with your employees will make them feel valued. Furthermore, when discussing potential risks and consulting them on ways to prevent said risks, it also raises awareness, which will significantly improve the likelihood that they will abide by the measures that are put in place.

Many companies have found themselves in trouble because their employees don’t stick to the rules, even though they are in full compliance. When you consult with your employees, though, and ensure they are part of the decision-making process, you are essentially making them take ownership in part of their own health and safety. And this means they are much more likely to follow the rules.

Of course, talking to your employees will also uncover risks you might have not been aware of previously since they are the ones doing the work.

Train Your Employees

This stage is imperative. You might have everything in place but if your employees don’t know what to do to stay healthy and safe, it’s all for naught.

So, ensure that your entire staff knows what to do to stay safe when working. Provide them with clear information and instructions, as well as the necessary training.

The type and amount of training you provide will depend on your business. For example, a digital marketing firm is not going to require a lot of technical training. In such a case, simple instructions and information will be more than enough.

You have to make sure, though, that everyone who works for you, including external contractors and self-employed persons, are aware of:

  • Any risks they might face
  • How to deal with the hazards and risks
  • How to follow emergency procedures
A Crane

Once again, you should consult with your employees on the relevance and effectiveness of the training being provided. Of course, you could seek the help of an external consultant, but training can also be done in-house quite effectively.

Providing The Right Facilities

You need to make sure that your employees have access to the right facilities for their needs, and this includes people with disabilities. For example, to ensure your employees’ well-being, you need to ensure they have access to:

  • Toilets, hand basins, soap and towels;
  • Drinking water;
  • Clothing storage and an area to change if they wear special outfits for work;
  • A place to rest and to eat.

To provide a healthy workplace for your employees, you must ensure that:

  • There is good ventilation;
  • The temperature is reasonable;
  • There is good lighting for the work being done;
  • There is sufficient space and people have proper workstations with good seating;
  • The workplace is clean and people have somewhere to dispose of rubbish.

In terms of safety, you have to ensure that everything is maintained properly, floors are free of obstructions, windows can be opened, and transparent doors or walls are made of safety material or protected.

These are just some of the things you need to consider and higher-risk work environments will have many more requirements. If you aren’t sure of what’s expected of you, it’s generally a good idea to seek the advice of an expert.

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Make Proper Arrangements

You need to have arrangements for first-aid, accidents and poor health in place. Thus, if someone is injured at work or they fall ill, you need to ensure they receive attention immediately.

You never know when an accident can take place or when someone can fall ill, and first aid could save someone’s life. It could also prevent a small injury from becoming a big one.

As with all the other cases, the type of arrangements in place will depend on the type of business you run. However, at the very minimum, you will need:

  • A first-aid box;
  • A person in charge of first-aid – you might even need someone who has received first-aid training;
  • To inform all your employees of the first-aid arrangements.
First aid kit for the workplace

Note that if an accident does occur, you might have to report it. Even if someone becomes ill, you might need to file a report if the disease is work-related.

However, you should also keep a record of any injuries and accidents, as it will help you identify potential trends and patterns and potentially develop and implement measures to lower the incidence. Furthermore, your insurer might want to check your records if someone files a claim.

Display The H&S Law Poster

The law obligates companies to display the health and safety law poster in a place where all employees can see it. The other option is to ensure everyone receives the equivalent pocket card.

The poster covers all the health and safety laws and includes a simple list informing employees what they have to do and what their employer needs to do.

Get Insurance

If someone is injured in the workplace, they could demand compensation. If you are in full compliance, you might not have to pay. However, if a court decides that you are to blame, insurance will help you cover the compensation you have to pay.

The fact is that most businesses must have employer’s liability insurance. The ones that might not require insurance are companies with no employees and family business where all employees are close relations. Again, it’s best to consult with an expert to ensure you are in compliance.

Keeping Everything Up To Date

Not only do you need to review your health and safety policy and risk assessments regularly and keep them updated as changes occur, but you should also stay informed of any changes to the rules and regulations. This way, you can ensure you are fully compliant at all times.

Why So Many Businesses Aren’t In Compliance

Many misconceptions surround health and safety, which is why so many businesses fail to comply. Such misconceptions include:

  • It’s time consuming
  • It’s too expensive
  • It’s too complicated
Yellow hard hat

Unfortunately, these misconceptions are amplified by companies in the H&S industry who often use scare tactics to sell their services.

The truth is that health and safety should be easy and manageable. And it shouldn’t be about the law. Yes, you need to be in compliance, but what really matters is making sure your employees are healthy and safe. When people feel safe and they have a great working environment, you will see incredible benefits for your business in increased productivity and engagement.

What To Expect When Talking To Health & Safety Companies

Businesses can often handle health and safety on their own, but sometimes external help is needed. This is especially true if you want to be certain you are in compliance and that your employees are safe.
The first step in getting outside help is making sure what help you require. Otherwise, you won’t get the help you truly need.

You also need to clearly explain what you need help with and make sure that they understand your needs. Also, don’t let anyone scare you into anything. Many health and safety companies have a tendency of over-complicating things and employing less than scrupulous approaches to selling their services.

Unfortunately, this approach tends to work because the last thing they want is not to abide by the law. Most businesses, for example, aren’t aware that there are only 13 actual laws with mandatory rules that need to be followed. Everything else is a guideline.

However, since the health and safety industry is unregulated and no qualifications are required, even for professional indemnity, there’s a lot of high-pressure selling.

Even worse, many consultants seem to want to pretend they’re earning their fee by making everything as complicated as possible. But they don’t want to do too much work either, so they end up sending out tons of documents that you have to fill out. And that’s pretty much a waste of time because you likely have a decent idea of what you need to be doing, but your main problem is a lack of time. Filling out a ton of forms is not going to help you save time.

And in the vein of making everything too complicated, they end up telling you that you need to do a lot more than is actually necessary. This, of course, leads to the same time problem. If you don’t have enough time to handle the basics, then how are you going to have enough time to handle a massively complex health and safety system designed by someone who is more interested in looking good than making sure you are in compliance?

Why Work With WRM?

At WRM, our sole interest is to ensure that your employees, contractors and customers get home safely while protecting your brand and covering you against false claims.

When you work with us, you aren’t going to get a ton of documents you have to fill in, nor are you going to have to slog through a health and safety system that a nuclear power plant would find complicated.

When you engage the services of WRM, you will:

  • Enjoy peace of mind because we will do all the work for you
  • Be in full compliance because we make sure of it
  • Save time and resources because we will lay everything out for you, i.e. what you absolutely must do, what you should do, and what you could do.
Workman in overalls

The three most important things when it comes to health and safety – the three things that you absolutely must do no matter what – are: implementation, implementation, implementation.

And that is why we make things as simple as possible because overly complex reports and systems, as some consultants provide, will lead to nothing getting done.

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The WRM team can handle everything for you, including:

  • Conducting risk assessments;
  • Running accident investigations;
  • Conducting fire assessments;
  • Compiling RIDDOR reports;
  • Training tailored to each employee’s job;
  • and much more.
Red pens on a desk

WRM is staffed by health and safety professionals. When you work with us, you aren’t working with a human resources firm who just tacks on health and safety as an add-on to keep your business. We are experts in H&S, which means you will be provided with excellent support and training.

To make things even easier for you, we have developed a great software application that allows you to:

  • See all your sites, as well as subcontractors, accidents, relevant documents and what training might be necessary;
  • Log accidents and incidents, to which files such as doctor’s notes, return-to-work interviews, RIDDOR reports etc. can be attached;
  • Provide different access levels to different employees;
  • Break tasks down into clear actions that are easy to follow instead of a large and complicated document;
  • Track the completion of different tasks;
  • Use a dashboard to see any overdue items, incidents, accidents and so on;
  • Record all documents, policies, procedures and risk assessments in one central location;
  • See and manage any inspections that are due;
  • Manage subcontractors to ensure everyone’s safety;
  • Monitor what training is necessary and what needs to be renewed;
  • Generate daily, weekly, monthly, or annual checklists to ensure you are in full compliance;
  • Access a wide range of reports;
  • and much more.
Workman on scaffolding

We developed the software to make our own workflow easier, which means you will have access to a platform built by health and safety professionals who are practising what they preach.

Of course, we understand that not every business will require all these features, which is why our online software is modular. So, for example, if you only want to more effectively manage subcontractors, you can subscribe to only that module.

So, once you start working with WRM, you will never again have to worry about being in compliance with health and safety regulations. You’ll have the peace of mind you need to focus on running your business effectively, knowing you and your employees are in the best and most qualified hands possible.