January is the time for planning and committing to positive changes.
Whether or not you make resolutions in your personal life, it is worth taking this opportunity to set some targets for improvement in your business.
As many businesses have undergone changes in the past year – downsizing, changes to location or even growth – it is especially important to review your health and safety arrangements for accuracy and to ensure you have what you need in place.
Use this opportunity, at the start of the year, to perform a health check on your business; I’ve created this blog to help.
A Health Check for Your Health and Safety Procedures
Performing a Health and Safety audit for your business is incredibly valuable, the scale of the audit will depend on your own business needs.
1) Consider a review of just your paperwork – policies, procedures and risk assessments need to be kept available and updated regularly. Is this kind of check enough?
2) You might choose to audit premises as well as paperwork – reviewing your property’s access, escape routes, hazards and assembly points among other things. If your offices are currently empty, this may be a good time to make necessary changes.
These are the essentials for your company Health and Safety needs, making sure you start the year on the right path.
Who’s in Charge? Specify Your Health and Safety Representative
Your business needs an individual to be responsible for day-to-day Health and Safety concerns. Who the right person is, will depend on the size of the role and the capabilities of your staff. This individual needs to have an awareness of the risks and hazards within your business and the ability to put controls in place to protect your staff, visitors, customers and clients.
It may be appropriate – where the company is large or dealing with high risks – to bring an external specialist on board to ensure your compliance, or you may require help on specific projects (such as an audit) where they will support your own in-house rep.
Again, if you are a sole trader or small businesses without the expertise required to manage this yourself, it’s important to find the right person to help.
Be Clear on Your Policy
All businesses – even sole traders – must have a Health and Safety policy.
This identifies your approach to health and safety, including how you manage relevant risks in your business. Essentially, the policy will specify –
i) who has ultimate responsibility for health and safety matters in the business, this is the employer
ii) who fulfils particular roles and responsibilities on the staff (e.g., First Aiders, Fire Wardens etc)
iii) what practical arrangements are in place within the business, such as risk assessments, training plans, evacuation plans and maps of Information including the location of first aid kits and emergency exits.
While all businesses must have a policy, it only needs to be a written policy in companies of five or more employees. However, as the policy needs to be continually reviewed, it often makes sense to write it down anyway. The HSE have provided some useful guidance and templates here.
Understanding and Minimising Your Risks
An essential part of your policy will be the Risk Assessment.
Understanding areas of potential risk in your business (hazards), may seem clear in a larger business with offices and employees. Even as a lone worker, however, it is important to understand risks involved with mobile working or using a premises for client visits. Again, there are some useful guidelines on the HSE website.
Whether you choose to focus on the processes within your business, your properties or both, you will need to review the risks to health and safety with each element of work or every step round your buildings.
Where a risk is identified it then needs to be assessed for potential harm and action must be taken to minimise those risks – signs, barriers, training.
These documents then need to be constantly reviewed and updated. New processes, new equipment or new staff could all potentially require changes to the risk assessment – make sure a regular review is in your diary.
Focus on the People
As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure your health and safety policies are in order; however, to make sure the policies are doing their job, make sure your employees are on board.
By having appropriate forums and opportunities for discussion, you can find out if training is effective, communications are getting to the right people and all staff are properly engaged. If those in your business don’t understand why rules and processes are in place, they are more likely to ignore them – communication is key and should always involve listening to staff ideas as well as telling them what is expected.
Employees may be required to perform their own ongoing assessments and will often undergo training for specific health and safety measures, this needs to be well managed and take account of particular learning needs as well as changes to employee situations. E.g., consider home-workers, the arrival of new equipment or how visual impairment may impact an employee in their role including with the provision of training.
While some on-the-job training may be done in person by mangers or teams, there are often situations where online training or external training is necessary; finding the right person to provide this is very important.
Providing the right information, communication and training is essential in reassuring your employees of their value to the company. The better you perform in this area, the better your people will perform their roles.
Having it All
Having focused on people, we’ll now focus on place and facilities.
There are certain facilities which all workplaces will need – the right number of toilets and washbasins, provision of drinking water, cleanliness, the right temperature, light levels, space and seating for a start. The workplace should also be safe – well maintained, clear of obstructions and with all risks assessed and identified
The workplace will also need first aid provision, including a suitably stocked first aid kit and someone responsible to manage any arrangements when needed.
Reporting of accidents and illness within the workplace are also essential – in fact it is a legal requirement to report certain workplace injuries, near-misses and cases of work-related disease to the HSE. In companies of more than 10 employees there must be an accident book for keeping appropriate records – again more information is available online here.
Finally, where anyone is employed, the health and safety law poster (or leaflet) must be displayed or available to everyone. This explains the law and lists worker and employer responsibilities. Make sure yours is up to date.
Check Your Insurance
Have a conversation with a trusted insurance expert to ensure your business is covered appropriately for the work you are doing. And make sure to review your policy often.
If you have employees, your business will likely need employers’ liability insurance, but there are other areas of cover which may be appropriate too. As your areas of service, equipment or properties and workspaces change, your insurance will need to be reviewed, don’t put it off.
A review of your health and safety procedures is incredibly important, if you have time to start your year with one this will set you in a great position going forward.
I hope this has given you the guidance you need to confidently do your own review. But, if you are concerned – or have any questions – about the implications of these checks for your business, I’d be happy to help.
Do get in touch, I’m Lucy at email@example.com
A CHECKLIST (because it’s always nice to be able to tick things off!)
Health and Safety Audit Checked
Who’s in Charge?
– Of this audit
– Our Health and Safety Rep
– Overall responsibility
– Individual health and safety roles and responsibilities
– Practical arrangements made
– Policies and processes: risks identified, assessed and managed
– Buildings and property: risks identified, assessed and managed
– Feedback communication channels in place
– Training plans in place
– Check and maintain expected standards
– First Aid provision – rep, kit and accident book
– Law poster in place
– In place and reviewed