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Complying with health and safety regulations

What you need to know and why

When you first start out in business, you have certain priorities. Getting started, establishing yourself, developing a customer base and keeping the accountants happy are all prime considerations. The last thing you want to have to think about is that you or one of your employees might get hurt or become ill due to work.

However, the big mistake is to think that this doesn’t apply to you, or to put off worrying about it until later. If you think it will never happen to you, or that your business environment is not risky, this is simply not the case.

The reality is that around 300 people a year are killed and a further 158,000 people are injured through work-related activities. An estimated 2.2 million suffer from ill health caused or made worse by work.

It is also wrong to assume that these things only happen in exceptional circumstances. Sadly, many accidents and cases of ill health can be prevented by simply giving health and safety due consideration.

No matter what your business does or how small it is, health and safety laws apply to you. These laws are enforced in some cases by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and in some cases by your Local Authority, depending on your type of business.

Things you need to think about, however large or small your business is include:

  • Having a health and safety policy

  • Carrying out a risk assessment

Displaying the health and safety law poster

Controlling risks to health and safety at work is no different from getting to grips with any other task. Recognising the problem, deciding what to do about it and putting that solution into action.

If you have five or more employees you need to have a written health and safety policy statement, which sets out how you manage health and safety in your organisation. The important thing is that you put what you write into practice.

Risk Assessments

You must also carry out risk assessments. These are careful examinations of what could cause harm to people at your workplace and all employers and self-employed people have to assess the risks from work activities.

If you have five or more employees you also have to record the significant findings of your risk assessment. If that sounds complicated, remember you carry out a risk assessment every time you cross the road, looking left and right. It’s simply a careful examination of what in your work could cause harm to people, so that you can weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions or if you should do more to prevent harm.

Managing health and safety

If you employ anyone you must either display a copy of the health and safety law poster or ensure that each member of staff is given a copy of the corresponding leaflet.

Managing health and safety takes commitment from both employers and employees and there is a cost involved, something that often discourages businesses from tackling the issue. However, it is important to also consider the costs of not addressing health and safety issues.

As well as the more visible costs of compensation claims should the worst happen, there are less obvious costs of having unsafe practices. High staff turnover resulting in greater recruitment and training costs, poor morale, downtime, increased insurance costs and missed deadlines all have an effect on profitability. It is also important to remember that many of these hidden costs are simply not covered by insurance.

Saving money

Good health and safety is good business. Accidents don’t just cause misery for those affected, they also cost money. Sick pay, provision of staff to cover for those absent due to illness or injury, interruption of work processes, morale and reputation are all important considerations.

However, the most important consideration is that your staff are your most important asset and it makes good business sense to protect your assets.

Often, businesses that have high standards of health and safety are also the most successful. This is because good management practices in other areas of the business also apply to health and safety management. If you are not getting your health and safety right, chances are you are getting a few other things wrong as well.

This article was provided by the Big Small Business Initiative, a partnership comprised of companies and industry bodies who have joined forces to give smaller companies free advice and practical support.

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