Health and safety: What you need to know for your start-up

A short independent guide to Health & Safety in your business

A short independent guide to Health & Safety in your business. Protect your people – and you’ll protect your business, too.

Each and every day, accidents happen in workplaces across the UK. In fact, over 621,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury at work, and over 2 million people are thought to suffer from ill health as a result of their employment. Even worse, around 144 people lose their lives at work each year.

The truth is that many of these incidents can be prevented – by simply protecting your people with basic Health & Safety measures, and by complying with Health & Safety law.

It also means your business will be protected, too: you could save thousands of pounds in reduced insurance claims and premiums, you’ll lose fewer working days through illness and accidents, and you could boost the morale of your staff.

We’ve designed this guide to introduce you to the importance of Health & Safety at work, and to ensure that you have enough information to be able to safeguard your people and your business.

Health & Safety – the facts

Did you know that …

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– around 80% of work related illnesses in 2015-2016 were musculoskeletal disorders (back and limbs), stress, depression or anxiety

– employers with five or more employees must have a written health policy

– each year, an estimated 8,000 people* die from cancer due to past exposures at work

– past exposure to asbestos is the leading cause of occupational cancer today, other causes include; silica, solar radiation, mineral oils and shift work

– the number of reported injuries resulting in an employee being absent from work for 3 or more days was 200,000 of which 152,000 led to over 7 days absence

– 20% of injuries were incurred by handling, lifting or carrying, 19% by slipping or tripping and 10% were caused by being hit by a moving object

– all employers have to provide Health & Safety training to their employees

– about 4.5 million work days* are lost in the UK each year through work-related illness or accident, an average of 7.2 days per case

– insurance only covers a small proportion of the costs of accidents. Costs that are not covered include sick pay, repairs to equipment, investigation time and fines

– directors and managers can be held personally responsible for failing to control Health & Safety

– employers are required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to assess risks to their workers

(*Source: HSE)

What if I get Health & Safety wrong?

It’s common to believe that accidents at work only happen in unusual or exceptional circumstances. The reality is that accidents can happen anytime, and anywhere – and if you’re not fully prepared, then your business could suffer…

Increased costs   Even if your business does have accident insurance, many costs such as sick pay, damage to raw materials, repairs to equipment, temporary labour, production delays, investigation time, and fines will not be covered under your policy.

Extra demands on your time and resources The legal costs, fees and other financial penalties associated with an accident at work are not the only issues you would need to deal with. There’ll be immediate downtime for both the equipment and the injured person, you may need to reschedule production times, and you must spend time properly investigating and reporting the incident.

Low employee morale If your employees don’t feel like they are adequately protected, or they feel like you are not taking responsibility for Health & Safety, staff relations may break down which could potentially lead to low morale and poor standards of work.

How do I get Health & Safety right?

Health & Safety doesn’t have to be complex, expensive or time consuming, and by getting it right, you could save lives as well as money.

Be aware of current legislation   The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the basis of Health & Safety legislation. It places general duties on employers and other people in control of premises, manufacturers and employees to ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ protect the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.

Properly assess risks to your employees As an employer, you are required to assess risks to your employees by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The regulations also require you to identify the measures needed to comply with Health & Safety laws and to appoint competent people to help you take appropriate measures.

Don’t knowingly put your employees at risk If you have employees with health problems that may become aggravated by certain types of work, it makes sense to offer flexible working options or alternative arrangements. Remember to take health risks into account when recruiting, too.

Provide relevant information, education and up-to-date training Make sure your employees are properly trained in Health & Safety procedures and hazard awareness, and ensure they understand how to prevent or minimise risk. Posters are an effective and inexpensive way to communicate risks, while some notices are required by law.

Make sure your first aid procedures work It’s essential that your first aid procedures comply with both the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (3), and the First Aid at Work Approved Code of Practice.

Promote good health It’s not required by law, but it’s a great idea to offer your employees facilities such as regular health checks, eyesight and hearing tests, dental advice, healthy menus in the staff canteen, exercise and relaxation classes, and even stress counselling. Any of these can have real health benefits for your staff.

Develop your own Health & Safety policy If you have five or more employees, you need an up-to-date written statement or policy that must be communicated to employees. Consultations with employees, surveys on staff attitudes towards Health & Safety, and suggestions for improving the work environment are all good starting points for developing a policy.

Health & Safety – your questions answered

Health & Safety covers many areas – far more than we can include in this booklet. However, these are the answers to some of the most common questions that small business owners ask.

Why is Health & Safety important? Health & Safety is about preventing accidents and other work-related sicknesses. Not only can it protect the health of your employees, it can offer real benefits to your business, too.

Should I follow Health & Safety law? Every business, large or small, should closely follow Health & Safety legislation. The law is there to protect you, your employees, and the public against any dangers in the workplace.

What does the law say? One of the most important parts of Health & Safety law is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA). All work places are covered by this legislation which says that an employer must do everything reasonably practicable to provide a safe and healthy workplace with adequate welfare facilities.

Is there anyone who enforces Health & Safety law? The Health and Safety Executive has a team of inspectors who investigate factories, farms, building sites and other similar workplaces, while local authorities are responsible for inspecting offices, shops and leisure facilities. Both have the power to enforce Health & Safety law.

Should I worry if an inspector visits my business? If you are following the law, then you should have nothing to worry about. Inspectors generally check that employers are doing things the right way, however, they also investigate some accidents and complaints, and can advise you on anything you don’t understand.

Should my business be insured? Employers’ liability compulsory insurance is essential if you have any employees, and you should always display the certificate in a common staff area. Remember, though, that your insurance won’t necessarily cover all of the costs associated with an incident at work.

Are there any other posters that I need to display? Again, if you employ anyone, you must either display the Health & Safety law poster, or provide your employees with individual copies of the ‘Health & Safety law: what you should know’ leaflet, which contains the same information.

What is a risk assessment? A risk assessment is a thorough investigation of your workplace to discover whether there is anything that could cause harm to your employees. It also lets you decide whether you have taken enough precautions against accident or injury, or whether you need to do more to prevent it from happening.

Health & Safety in your workplace – how safe are you and your employees?

This quick survey will help you decide whether you or your employees might be at risk in your workplace. If you tick any of the boxes, there’s a strong chance that you need to put additional Health & Safety measures in place. Ignore the risks and your employees – and your business – could be in danger.

About your employees

o Do you have more than 5 employees? o Is there a chance that one of your employees could slip or trip at work? o Do your employees work at height? o Do your employees spend time manually lifting, handling or transporting heavy items? o Do your employees sit at desks and use computer screens for most of the day? o Do your employees use specialist machinery or equipment?

About your workplace

o Is there a risk of fire or explosion at your workplace? o Is your workplace exposed to high levels of noise? o Is your workplace exposed to high levels of vibration? o Is your workplace exposed to high levels of radiation? o Does your workplace involve contact with asbestos? o Are hazardous substances present in your workplace? o Do your buildings require regular maintenance? o Does your business involve vehicles?

About your current Health & Safety policy The following questions can help you decide whether you’re currently taking the right precautions when it comes to Health & Safety. If you can’t tick all the boxes, or you don’t understand some of the questions, you may need to review your policy.

o Do you know what to do if there is an accident at work? o Have all past accidents been investigated properly? o Have you put systems in place to prevent them happening again? o Have your employees received the correct training in safety procedures and awareness? o Are you displaying the Health & Safety law poster? o Have you carried out a recent risk assessment? o If you have 5 or more employees, have you developed your own Health & Safety policy?

Want to find out more?

You can find reliable and up-to-date Health & Safety advice from a number of sources, including the Health & Safety Executive, your own local authority, and a wide range of other independent bodies and organisations.


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