Guide to Workplace Health and Safety for Beginners
Employers have a duty of care and responsibility regarding the health and safety of their employees and any visitors to their premises. This includes customers, suppliers, volunteers and any visiting members of the public.
The employer has a duty to ensure that every person on the premises is safe, and if an incident were to occur, then the liability would fall on them.
Often, businesses choose to outsource this support to a health and safety consultant to ensure that they are always compliant, even when legislation changes.
Guardian Support has compiled this guide to workplace health and safety for beginners to help small businesses understand and comply with health and safety. From regulations to risk assessments and responsibilities, this guide will outline everything you need to ensure your workplace is safe.
Health and Safety at Work Regulations for Beginners
The Health and Safety at Work Act places the legal duty on employers to oversee the health, safety and welfare of their employees and anyone on their premises.
Under this Act, employers have an obligation to ensure that any hazards, including work-related violence, are eliminated or controlled to protect the well-being of their employees and others.
Where there are five or more employees, you must have a written health and safety policy in place that is clearly communicated to all employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also requires employers to carry out a risk assessment to identify and control any workplace risks.
Workplace Risk Assessments for Beginners
A risk assessment of the workplace is, in summary, an evaluation of the potential risks on site. This assessment identifies those who are most at risk and what precautions have been put in place to eliminate or reduce these risks.
It must all then be written up in a document known as a method statement or ‘safe system of work’ that details how certain tasks around the workplace will be carried out to ensure they are compliant and safe.
There are five simple steps to a risk assessment: identify the hazard, identify those at risk, take action, report findings and review annually.
Employers’ Duty of Care
Employers have a duty of care to their employees; this means that they must take all possible steps towards ensuring their employees are healthy and safe in the workplace.
This goes far beyond fulfilling your legal duties as detailed in the Health and Safety Work Act and Health and Safety at Work Regulations – it also builds trust and improves staff productivity and engagement.
Beginners Guide to Improving Safety at Work
Some examples of how employers can ensure health and safety in the workplace include::
- Clearly defining jobs and undertaking thorough risk assessments
- Preventing any risks to health on the premises
- Ensuring that all machinery is safe to use
- Making sure working practices are set up and followed by staff
- Materials are handled, stored and used safely
- Providing first aid facilities
- Informing workers of any potential hazards in daily tasks
- Providing adequate training
- Putting emergency plans and procedures in place
- Making sure that facilities meet health, safety and welfare requirements – such as ventilation, temperature, lighting, toilet, washing and rest facilities
- Providing the correct work equipment and ensuring it is properly used and maintained
- Providing protective clothing without a charge to the employee
- Placing of right warning signs and maintained
- Reporting certain accidents, injuries, diseases and any dangerous occurrences to the HSE or local authority (depending on the type of business you have)
How To Make a Workplace Healthy
But, how do you go about making sure that the workplace is safe and healthy? And what areas should be highlighted in your risk assessment that can be easily overlooked because they do not seem like major risks? Here are some important ways in which beginners can improve health and safety at work:
- Making sure that the building is properly ventilated with clean air
- Keeping temperatures inside at a level that is comfortable for all (13 degrees minimum if no work involves physical activity;16 degrees for offices)
- Appropriately lighting the workplace, which allows for safe work and movement
- Keeping the workplace and the equipment clean
- Ensuring areas are large enough for ease of movement (at least 11 cubic metres per person)
- Providing suitable workstations for employees by conducting regular DSE reviews
- Maintaining work equipment
- Making floors, walkways, stairs, roadways safe to use
- Protecting people from falling from a height or into dangerous substances
- Storing things safely, so they won’t cause injuries
- Fitting windows, doors and gates with safety devices if needed
- Providing washing facilities suitable for staff and clean drinking water
- If needed, providing a place for employees to change and store clothing
- Creating areas for rest breaks, lunch and suitable facilities for pregnant women and nursing mothers
- Letting employees take rest breaks and entitlement to holidays
- Making sure that any employee who works alone or off-site can do so safely and healthily
What Incidents Do Employers Have to Report?
Employers also have a legal obligation to report certain incidents to the relevant authorities under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). The relevant authorities could include HSE, Office for Rail Regulation or local authorities but it is always best to seek advice from a professional to understand who you need to report to and how.
Employers and self-employed people in control of the premises, must report any of the following:
- Work-related deaths
- Major injuries or any injuries over three days
- Diseases related to work
- Dangerous occurrences (or near miss accidents)
Other Legal Responsibilities Employers Have Regarding Health and Safety
Employers must consult with their staff on any health and safety issues that crop up at work. This consultation must take place through a safety representative who is elected by staff or a trade union.
Workers can complain to their representative if they feel their workplace isn’t carrying out its legal duties. If the representative or the employer provides an unsatisfactory response to the concern, an employee can complain to the HSE.
Furthermore, every workplace is required to display the Health and Safety Law Poster, as failure to do so is an offence against the Health and Safety Act 1974. The other option is to provide every staff member with a copy of the HSE leaflet detailing the same information.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, as there are many more hazards and assessments that you need to carry out, especially in more hazardous industries such as Construction or Manufacturing.
If you require the support of a Health and Safety Consultant who can conduct your risk assessments, write up your documentation and provide you with 24-hour advice, then give us a call today at 0845 874 4087.