You are already losing sleep about your cashflow, now you find out that you have to implement a health and safety system. Let us show you how in 10 simple steps.
You are responsible – yes YOU. As the employer, the health and safety of your employees at work rests on your shoulders. Despite the fact that people take unnecessary risks from time to time, it is still your responsibility.
As an employer, you are automatically responsible for the safety of your employees. You can appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.
If you run a low-risk business, health and safety is something you can manage by appointing one or more of your employees.
However, if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health and safety in-house, or if you are a higher-risk business, you may need some external help or advice to set up the system.
Deciding what help you need is very important. Unless you are clear about what you want, you probably won’t get the help you need.
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Describing how you will manage health and safety in your business will let your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety. This will be your health and safety policy. It is ideal if the policy includes who does what, when and how.
The policy does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. A policy will only be effective if you and your staff follow it and review it regularly so you have to put your money where your mouth is.
Make sure you purchase a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act Poster and display this is an area where staff can read it.
As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace. To do this you need to think about what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as a risk assessment. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you whether you have covered all you need to.
It is better if you document this process as then you can prove you have done it. The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.
A simple table can help you put the information together – what could go wrong. Use the following headings:
What are the hazards?
Who might be harmed and how?
What are you already doing?
Do you need to do anything else to control this risk?
Action by who?
Action by when?
Think about employees on the road too and contractors to your site. Don’t overlook the office environment too.
The law also gives employees responsibilities to protect themselves and co-workers. You employees may be more familiar with hazards as they do the actual work every day. You should also consult with them to find out more about hazards and how safety can be improved.
If you have more than 20 employees, you need to have a health and safety representative elected by your employees. This person will be responsible to ensure that health and safety measures are effective for employees safety. The law gives them other responsibilities and it is a good idea to ensure they are fully trained to understand what they are expected to do. The more employees you have the more safety representatives you will need in the ratio of 1 rep to every 50 employees.
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Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. You must provide clear instructions and information. It is important that you train them on how to keep themselves safe, how to use the safety equipment you will provide them with and what to do if there is an accident.
Don’t forget contractors and self-employed people who may be working for you and make sure everyone has the right level of information on:
• hazards and risks they may face, if any ;
• measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks, if necessary;
• how to follow any emergency procedures.
When you provide training, ask your employees what they think about it to make sure it’s relevant and effective. Keeping training records will help you to identify when refresher training might be needed.
The information and training you provide should be in a form that is easy to understand. Everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do.
Health and safety training should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees. There are many external trainers who will be able to help you with your training needs but effective training can often be done ‘in house’.
See part 2 of this article for the next 5 steps on Health and safety basics for Employers.