Keeping your employees safe in the workplace: what you need to know
While there are many things that your employees can do to help preserve their safety in your workplace, this doesn’t take away from your own responsibilities enshrined by UK health and safety law. Those responsibilities include ensuring that your staff work in suitable, risk-free conditions – and there are various ways that you can meet these legal obligations. Here are many example methods.
Don’t be too daunted by your obligations
It’s easy to overestimate how much your business needs to do to manage health and safety. You might already have a dreadful and daunting image of yourself filling in lots of forms and poring over bundles of paperwork, panicking as you wonder whether you have covered this base or that.
However, in approaching health and safety management, you should endeavour to strip out unnecessary complication, time, and financial expense from the equation. There are reasonable, practical steps that you need to take for preventing your employees suffering accidents or harm. Still, those steps are basic – and if you have taken them and, afterwards, any injury or illness in any of your employees arose after 1 October 2013, paying compensation shouldn’t be necessary on your part.
Write a health and safety policy
Every business needs this kind of policy for its staff to adhere to – though the Health and Safety Executive says that, if your employees number less than five, you don’t need to write down this policy. The policy will, to define it simply, describe how you manage health and safety in the company. To this end, it should clarify which people do what, not to mention when and how.
Putting together this policy does not have to be complex or time-draining – especially as the HSE website includes a downloadable template for a health and safety policy. The template also has a dedicated space in which you can record another crucial preparatory task: risk assessment.
What does the risk assessment involve?
A risk assessment is almost self-explanatory. It involves taking account of the parts of your business that might harm people including your employees. You should then judge the extent to which you have reasonably attempted to prevent such harm. Even if you are already acting to keep your employees safe, the risk assessment can help you discern whether you have covered everything necessary. The word “necessary” warrants strong emphasis here…
While significant findings of the assessment should be recorded, you do not need to make note of everyday risks. You are not even obliged to write down anything about the assessment if you have under five employees. You are not legally required to remove every single risk, including unforeseeable risks. Your assessment is expected to include everything that, reasonably, you could be expected to have awareness of; you should also enact measures for controlling those risks.
Prevention is better than cure
One useful technique for helping prevent compromises in safety is recording occasions when previously arranged safety measures have failed to prevent issues. smallbusiness.co.uk explains: “For legal reasons, employers should organise an injury reporting procedure for employees to follow should an accident occur”. All injuries should be submitted and recorded in an incident log, which should include notes of any work-related deaths and diseases and near-miss occasions.
While this log can be a useful point of reference, it will largely detail what problems have arisen rather than how they can be avoided in future. This is where training comes in. Each of your workers needs to have received proper training in managing hazards that they could come across in their work; this training could include that in operating machinery.
These employees should also know the steps to follow if an accident has still happened; these steps could include finding the first aid kit. Never dismiss any particular health and safety rule as too small or insignificant, as it won’t be if you are eager to keep your employees safe.
The right insurance can help your employees – and you
You could go to many lengths in the effort to maintain your company’s workplace safety. You could plan carefully and utilise extensive knowledge gleaned from industry experience. However, the fact remains that, if you are the business owner, you can’t be in every part of the corporate premises – or, perhaps, even anywhere on the premises – all of the time. You might, for example, need to regularly leave the building to travel to meet potential new clients.
Therefore, accidents can still too easily occur – and, to help cushion the financial blow of accidents, you can opt for what is called employers’ liability insurance. For all but a few businesses, this form of insurance is legally compulsory anyway. It may not be necessary if your business has no employees or its employees are all closely related to you, the business owner. However, for many firms, employers’ liability insurance can prove invaluable.
This is because it is intended to help a business pay compensation to its workers who, due to its corporate activity, have become injured or sick. Your company could find itself having to pay such compensation regardless of whether each worker in question has been hurt entirely by accident or due to negligence on your part. If the damage has arisen directly from work they have done for your company, they have a legitimate claim for compensation.
You should also keep in mind that, if your company is one of the many required by law to have an employer liability insurance (EL) policy, the potential punishment for not having an active policy is a daily £2,500 fine. Your firm could also need to pay a £1,000 fine if it does not display its EL certificate or, when requested to, make it available.
Taking out an EL policy in the first place does not necessarily have to entail excessive financial outlay. The Hampshire-based business insurance broker Be Wiser can, at your request and on your behalf, compare EL schemes from top insurance providers to assist you in securing the best-value deal.