Every employer has a statutory duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and others who may be affected by their business activity. Owners of new and growing business are not except from these requirements that are often seen as imposing a significant additional management burden. But, this really is not the case; the legislation requires you do what is reasonably practical in all the circumstances. It doesn’t require the impossible or impracticable.
Managing health and safety is little different from managing any other aspect of your business. You need to assess the risks in your workplace, put sensible measures in place to control them, and make sure they stay controlled.
Assessing the risk is nothing more than a careful examination of what, in your work, could cause harm to people. Risk assessment should be a practical exercise, aimed at getting the right controls in place. The assessment will help you focus on the risks that really matter in your workplace – the ones with the potential to cause real harm. In many instances, straightforward measures can readily control risks, for example ensuring spillages are cleaned up promptly so people do not slip, or cupboard drawers are kept closed to ensure people do not trip. The law does not expect you to eliminate every conceivable risk, but you are required to protect people as far as ‘reasonably practicable’.
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards – a hazard is anything that may cause harm. Then think about the risks – the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard, and how serious the harm could be. Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed. Ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks. Concentrate on the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm.
Consider the measures you are already taking to control the risks and ask if there is anything you should do to make your workplace safer. Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures into place. You must keep a record of these findings and action taken if you have more than five employees.
You should review your risk assessment on a regular basis as few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later you will bring in new procedures, equipment, or substances that could lead to new hazards. If anything significant changes, check your risk assessment and update it.
Once you have carried out your risk assessments you can begin to develop your health and safety policies and arrangement documentation. Health and Safety policy statements are required for employers who employ five or more people. They should include a general statement of policy, a definition of the organisational responsibilities of directors, managers and employees, and details of the arrangements for securing a safe and healthy workplace. Peninsula can supply this documentation to you.
Implementing health and safety measures doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming or complicated. In fact, safer and more efficient working practices can often save money through reduced risk of accident and occupational ill health.
Peninsula’s Safety Management System and Guidance Notes contain a wealth of information on managing health and safety, risk assessments and the reasonably practical control measures that should be in place. In case of doubt or for further information call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.