Health & Safety is not normally the most attractive topic on the agenda but it is often the most important as Noel Preston explains
Often considered slightly “jobs worth”, making sure your Health & Safety (H&S) is in order from the outset takes less time and money than trying to put it right after something has happened.
Legal requirement The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Act sets out the general duties that employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.
All businesses with five or more employees must have a written Health & Safety policy.
A Health & Safety policy should not be produced and then tucked away in a file somewhere. It needs to be a living and breathing document that is shared with the whole business and is an integral part of its operations. The policy should be regularly communicated to all employees.
Businesses need to prove their processes are in order or they could be in serious trouble and subject to fines and penalties from the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE’s general rule is, “if it’s not written down, it hasn’t happened”!
Moral obligation A business must now look beyond what is legally required but also behave morally when employing and should always pride itself in providing a safe and healthy working environment. This reflects good practice in any business, even those with less than five employees.
Businesses grow successfully due to efficiencies and profitability. The safer the working environment, the happier the staff and it goes without saying that happy staff are generally more productive.
Last month we talked about HR (Human Resources) and “when is an employee not an employee”. HR and H&S are mutually compatible and complement each other well when managed properly.
Training Ensuring staff read, understand and sign the H&S policy is essential but even more importantly, time is taken to make sure they fully understand why it has been produced and that it is for the benefit and protection of both themselves and the businesses.
This ultimately leads on to the development of statutory documents such as risk assessments and method statements.
Besides carrying out a risk assessment, employers also need to:
Make arrangements for implementing the health and safety measures identified as necessary by the risk assessments.
Appoint competent people (often themselves or company colleagues) to help them to implement the arrangements.
Set up emergency procedures.
Provide clear information and training to employees.
Work together with other employers sharing the same workplace.
Help is at hand The business doesn’t have to do it all on their own. There are many qualified H&S specialists who provide tailored assistance depending on the type and size of business. Consequently, getting this right will reduce business costs, including insurance premiums if your business is presented correctly to insurers.
Who needs to know? If you are a business who invests time and effort in producing and implementing an active Health & Safety policy then shout about it! You are a more attractive business than one that doesn’t and it could help you in many ways, including:
Help attract new staff when recruiting.
Be a positive attribute when tendering to new customers.
Assist in placing your insurance and its pricing.
Bigger returns to your shareholders due to less incidents and distractions in the workplace.
So while it may not be everyone’s favourite subject, Health & Safety in the work place is clearly a very important issue and if you can guarantee a safe and happy workforce it should result in an efficient and profitable company!
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