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An introduction to health & safety

Last updated: 01 April 2022

An introduction to health & safety

What are your legal responsibilities on health and safety? What must you do to ensure your company complies with the law? Did you know that there are minimum standards to adhere to and every business has to carry out a risk assessment? If you have more than five or more employees this risk assessment must be written down at your place of work.

The Health and Safety Act covers all employees, whether they are full or part time, temporary or permanent, the self employed, casual workers and temps amongst others. Even if you work in your own home or do not employ anyone else, H&S still applies.

Basically the Health and Safety Act is about stopping people being harmed by work or becoming ill through work. It is a legal obligation for all employers to take care of the people around them. You need to ensure as far as possible your own safety as well as that of any employees, visitors, contractors and customers to your business premises.

Each business will have a different risk assessment and each must to carefully examine potential health and safety hazards created by its working activities. Risk could be caused by a range of common hazards such as slips, trips and falls, high noise levels, exposure to hazardous substances, fire and explosion etc. Employees need to be protected and all working equipment regularly checked to ensure it complies with the necessary safety regulations. (Keep necessary certificates to show certain equipment has been checked.) Protective equipment must be supplied if needed and all staff has to be informed of hazards and be fully trained. Make sure also that you and your employees use computer comfortably and safely and get regular breaks. If your business has relatively few risks you can carry out the assessment yourself, but you must act on the results, to eliminate or reduce the risk.

Staff must be informed about health and safety policy and be kept up to date and involved with health and safety procedures. All employees also need to be aware of their responsibilities and make sure the work environment is as safe as possible. Everyone needs to know how to report accidents and incidents.

Many businesses need to be registered with health and safety authorities and those with employees in an office or shop or catering, care or leisure facility, need to register with the local council’s environmental health department. Other types of businesses, such as manufacturing based in factories, engineering workshops, care-repair businesses, nursing homes and agriculture-based businesses must register with the Health and Safety Executive.

You must also insure against claims arising from illnesses, diseases or injuries you staff may get as a result from working for you. This is a legal requirement and you should display your certificate at work. Remember that employees might make a claim in the future, sometimes many years after they have worked for you, so keep all certificates. (The statutory minimum requirement is £5m).

If you work from home there are also special rules. If you change the use of premises or extend a building you made need planning consent and building regulations. Whatever your business you need to ensure easy access for disabled people. Other issues to consider under health and safety include environmental concerns and managing and transporting waste and packaging.

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