Health and Safety: A Guide for Small Business Owners
When running a small business, you must take health and safety as seriously as any other sized organisation. But what are your health and safety considerations and how should you implement them? Fortunately, it’s not complicated to ensure your business is health and safety compliant; it just takes the knowhow and a bit of commitment.
To help, here is phs Besafe’s guide to some of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to health and safety for beginners.
Appoint Someone to Manage Health and Safety
As an employer, it’s your duty to appoint a person who can help you to meet your duties surrounding health and safety. This someone should be competent and have the right level of skills and experience to take on these responsibilities. If you run a low-risk business, you could even appoint yourself, as long as you commit to understanding health and safety as well as implementing and monitoring the appropriate measures.
Create a Health and Safety Policy
Write down a policy that describes how you will manage health and safety within the business, as well as demonstrating your commitment to it. In the policy, it’s necessary to make it clear who is responsible for what. If you employ fewer than five people, you’re not legally required to write down your policy. However, it’s still a good idea to do so as it will help you to formulate and manage a robust health and safety policy and evidence this to others, including your staff. Review this policy each year to make sure it is still effective and complies to legislation.
Educate Your Employees
Educating your employees doesn’t have to take long or be particularly complicated, as long as you do it right. For example, you could hold regular ‘toolbox talks’ with a health and safety focus as part of scheduled weekly meetings to run over new initiatives or issues and to consistently remind staff of the importance of health and safety. Whichever way you choose to go about it, make sure you discuss the risks and safety procedures, so your staff are aware of all the issues and their responsibility in upholding health and safety commitments too.
Provide Training for Your Employees
If your employees need specific health and safety training, make sure they get it. This could range from simply providing staff with basic instructions all the way up to offering staff training for carrying out specific tasks, such as those that involve working with heavy objects, potentially dangerous machinery, or hazardous materials. If you’re not an expert yourself, get the resource in and book a training course or hire an external trainer to come in and make it specific for your organisation. Alternatively, with the right expertise, you may be able to offer this training in-house.
Provide Safe Facilities, Equipment and Workwear
Making sure all your employees can do their jobs correctly and safely will involve providing them with everything they need to do so. A key element of this is providing appropriate protective workwear which will keep users safe and mitigate many health and safety risks. The type of workwear your employees need depends on the environment they are working in and the task they are performing. In low light levels, your staff will need hi-visibility gear. For those working outdoors, you’ll need to equip staff with appropriate warm, weatherproof protection. While for employees working with machinery, metals or heat and chemicals, you’re likely to need to consider flame-retardant workwear to protect them from hazardous conditions.
The right equipment also involves providing staff with safe and suitable desks and chairs in office environments as well as maintaining a clean workspace and lavatories (which includes making sure there is soap in the bathroom). You should also be providing good ventilation to prevent the spread of germs, making sure employees work in a healthy room temperature, and provide good lighting to prevent eye strain.
General Tips for a Safe Workplace
Carry out a risk assessment and work out where the dangers are in your workplace, then make sure you sort out anything that needs fixing. Some elements to consider include:
Use entrance mats to prevent slips and falls
Put up wet floor signs when needed
Hire a specialist cleaning service
Inspect tools and equipment before using it
Maintain a schedule of relevant safety checks
Store chemicals safely and securely
Keep floors and workspaces tidy
Prevent items being left where people could trip
Make sure cables are not loose
Ensure employees have suitable breaks
Have a First-Aid Plan in Place
Accidents can happen anywhere, so make sure your workplace has a comprehensive first-aid kit available. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to provide equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work – as detailed by the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981.
You’ll need to conduct an assessment of your first-aid needs and adopt provisions to meet these needs. This includes having at least one appointed person to deal with first aid on-site who will need to be trained up to act when needed. You’ll also need to provide information to all your employees about first-aid arrangements and keep a record of injuries and diseases related to the workplace.
First-aid regulations apply to all workplaces, even to those who employ less than five employees and to the self-employed. You can read more about first aid at work at the HSE website.
Display the right information
In addition to awareness raising and training, you’ll need to remind staff of any hazards and health and safety issues. This includes displaying a health and safety law poster if you employ anyone, and this should be in a place where it is easy to read. However, you must also display safety signs where necessary such as where you may have slippery surfaces, dangerous chemicals or where there is any hazard.
If your organisation employs staff, it’s likely you’ll need employers’ liability insurance. This means that if an employee claims compensation after being injured or becoming ill as a result of working for you, you’ll have help to pay for it.
Keep Your Workplace Safe
Don’t put off dealing with your business’ health and safety arrangements or let it fall down the priority list. It’s vital to ensure compliance and your investment in health and safety will not only ensure you get things right but will help to keep your employees safe at work each day. Follow these tips and take health and safety seriously and you’ll reduce the risk of accidents and illness that could keep your employees out of work for weeks or months.