Advice for Employers – Health & Safety
This article has kindly been provided by Roger Kevern on behalf of the Isle of Wight Health and Safety Group
How many times have I heard employers in small to medium sized businesses say: ”Health and Safety! – that’s all well and good but it is a luxury and I have a business to run”?
In this answer they fail to grasp two very serious sides of health and safety law:
- It is criminal law – this means that you can face large personal fines or even imprisonment along with a criminal record if you ignore it;
- Under civil law, which is the monetary side of it, you have a Common Law Duty of Care and you can face large compensation claims for negligence.
A luxury, it is not!
But it need not be a burden to your business. There are a few essentials and the main one is to know what the law is because ignorance of the law is no defence. For this you can always ask for professional help from a specialist solicitor or a health and safety professional. However, you can also do a lot for yourself, this could be a daunting task to the small employer but it can be simplified.
Know the basics of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974, they are roughly summarised below in lay-man’s language.
- Take care of your employees at work;
- Provide your employees with safe materials and equipment for their work;
- Ensure that contractors and others who are not your employees but are working in your premises are working with due regard to their health and safety and the health and safety of others who may be affected by their work;
- Make sure that there is safe means of access and egress to anywhere in your premises where work is to take place;
- Take care that your work does not place risks on other people;
- Provide your employees with the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary for them to do their work safely;
- Provide a safe place to work with adequate provision for their welfare at work;
- Provide your employees with suitable personal protective equipment free of charge;
- Regularly inspect, maintain and renew where necessary, all of the equipment that you provide.
- As for the rest of regulations, you should pick and choose the ones that are relevant to your business.
You do this by completing a dreaded overall risk assessment for your business but that can be simple too.
- Take a large sheet of paper and draw four columns on it;
- In the left hand column make a list of all the activities that you do;
- Look at: www.hse.gov.uk and see if any of these activities are governed by specific regulations with readily available help and guidance available from the Health & Safety Executive;
- Then for each task you need to list all of the serious ways that you think that your employees could get hurt;
- Then for each of these hazards you estimate how likely it is that they will get hurt;
- In the next column you say what they should do so that they don’t get hurt;
- Finally, you make sure that they are following your instructions.
- Don’t forget the hidden dangers.
Remember that the above approach has reduced workplace deaths from accidents at work to the lowest level last year of 148 for the whole UK. However, 16,000 deaths were attributed to Health Risks at Work. In order of importance these were:
- Risks to breathing from breathing in dusts, fibres, fumes and gases;
- Risks to skin from sunlight, chemical absorption, contact with allergens and degreasing;
- Risks to hearing by being exposed to loud noise;
- Risks to touch by being exposed to hand-held vibrating tools;
- Risks of musculoskeletal disorders, mainly of the back and upper limbs from poor posture, poor manual handling or whole body vibration;
- Risks to wellbeing from bullying or excessive stress at work.
Good news – help is easily at hand from the Isle of Wight Health & Safety Group, they meet every second Tuesday from September to May at 14:00 hrs at the Isle of Wight College in Newport or contact: [email protected]
If all goes wrong then you will definitely need a solicitor who specialises in employment law
You can find more information about the Isle of Wight Health & Safety Group by contacting Roger or on their website www.iwhsg.com