Health and safety is all about preventing people from being harmed by work by taking the right precautions and providing a safe working environment. Health and safety laws apply to all firms, and the rules are in place to protect the employed, the self-employed and the public from workplace dangers. You can manage the health and safety risks associated with your business in a similar way to managing any other business risks. The benefits of this will include:
- Having a healthy and productive workforce
- Stopping people getting injured, ill or killed through work activities
- Improving the organisations reputation in the eyes of customers, potential customers and the wider community
- Avoiding the damaging effects on turnover and profitability
- Minimising the likelihood of prosecution and fines
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 explained
This Act aims to promote, stimulate and encourage high standards of health and safety at work. It sets out to protect not only people at work - whether employers, employees or self-employed - but also the health and safety of the general public who may be affected by work activities.
Employers must safeguard so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of the people who work for them. This applies in particular to:
- The provision and maintenance of safe plant and systems of work, and covers all machinery, equipment and appliances that are used
- The use and handling of any substance likely to cause a risk to health. All storage and transport arrangements should be kept under review
- Any necessary information, instruction and training in safe practices. Consider specific training needs with particular reference to processes and activities with special hazards
- The provision of a safe place of work including safe means of access to and egress from it. Welfare facilities and arrangements must be adequate.
An employer or self-employed person must conduct his undertaking in such a way that it does not affect the health and safety of others, i.e. other employees, or members of the public.
Employees must take reasonable care to avoid injury to themselves or others affected by their work activities, and to co-operate with employers and others. Employees must not interfere with or misuse anything provided to protect their health, safety and welfare.
Health and Safety Policy
It is a legal requirement for any organisation employing five or more people to have a written policy for health and safety.
Information, Instruction and Training
A significant factor in the cause of accidents is the lack of training of the people involved. The requirements for training in matters of health and safety are well established. Employees must be given adequate information, instruction and training to enable them to carry out their work safely. In practice:
- Information means providing factual material which tells people about risks and health and safety measures
- Instruction means telling people what they should do
- Training means helping them learn how to do it, but can include giving information and instruction
A risk assessment is the systematic general examination of a work activity to identify any hazards involved and the likelihood of those hazards causing harm. All work activities should be considered.
- Hazard is anything that can cause harm, e.g. chemicals, electricity, fire, work methods and equipment.
- Risk is the likelihood or chance, great or small, that someone will be harmed by the hazard.
An effective risk assessment will:
- Identify hazards
- Identify those at risk
- Identify those workers who may be particularly at risk
- Evaluate the risk and controls
Slips, Trips and Falls
Over a third of all major injuries reported each year are caused as a result of a slip or trip (the single most common cause of injuries at work). A good management system will help you to identify problem areas, decide what to do, act on decisions made and check that the steps taken have been effective. You will need to get conditions right from the start, as this will make dealing with slips and trip risks easier.
Working at Height
Falls from height at work are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the biggest causes of major injuries each year. As well as obvious situations such as ladder or scaffolding work, a place 'at height' may even be at ground level or below, if a person could be injured falling from it. For example work in a bar where there may be risk of falling into a cellar would be covered, as would work near a vehicle inspection pit. The main requirements are:
- Avoid work at height where possible
- Where work at height cannot be avoided, use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls or, failing that, to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, should one occur
- Assess risks from work at height and take account of the findings
- Make sure all work at height is planned, organised and carried out by competent, trained persons; take account of weather conditions
- Select appropriate work equipment for work at height; inspect and maintain it
- Control the risks of working on, at or near fragile surfaces
- Take precautions to prevent falling objects
- Provide barriers and notices to prevent access to any area where there is risk of falling a distance or being stuck by falling object
Information about how the temperature of the environment you work in can affect you, and advice on how to manage it is available from the Health and Safety Executive website.
Noise at Work
Loud noise at work can damage your hearing. Damage can cause loss of hearing ability and people may also suffer a permanent sensation of ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus. Hearing loss caused by work is preventable but once your hearing has gone it won't come back.
- Assess the risks to employees from noise at work
- Take action to reduce the noise exposure
- If noise levels cannot be adequately controlled by other means, provide suitable hearing protection to employees
- Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
- Provide employees with information, instruction and training
- Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health
RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations. If you are an employer, self-employed or in control of work premises you must report certain incidents involving employees and members of the public. This includes residents in a care home or children at an activity centre.
Following any accident or 'near miss', whether it is reportable or not, it is good management practice to ask questions about precisely why and how the accident happened and decide what you could do to prevent a recurrence. You should review the relevant risk assessment as part of a full investigation.
You can Make a RIDDOR report online but a telephone service is also provided for reporting fatal/specified, and major incidents only - call the Incident Contact Centre on 0345 300 9923.
It is a requirement under social security legislation (Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979) for businesses with ten or more employees to record all accidents in an accident book. The HSE has produced a new Accident Book, BI 510, which complies with the Data Protection Act 1988. Accident books must be readily accessible to employees. To allow this, whilst ensuring that personal information remains confidential, businesses must use the new-style reporting pad with tear off sheets, which can be removed and stored securely. It is good practice for smaller businesses to have a similar accident reporting system. (Note that RIDDOR applies to ALL businesses, irrespective of size.)
We routinely inspect workplaces, investigate complaints and reported accidents to ensure that workplaces are safe. We also run training courses in health and safety at work and produce guidance for businesses to help them comply with safety laws so that everyone is protected from dangers at work.