There are minimum standards that every business must follow to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone at work. The basic requirements are to carry out a risk assessment, provide certain basic comforts and put up certain notices and signs required by law. In addition all employers must ensure workers us IT equipment safety, know how to report accidents or dangerous incidents and take steps to protect against fire and meet fire safety standards.
Risk assessments and H&S policies specific to each business must still be produced, (and are covered in detail in separate articles). This article gives an outline of the minimum standards for all businesses, regardless of their size or type.
You cannot be expected to eliminate all risk, but you must protect people as much as you can. Your risk assessment will include looking for hazards, eg slips, trips and falls, working high up, exposure to hazardous substances, high noise levels, moving vehicles, fire and explosions.) You must decide who might be harmed and how, and evaluate the risks and see if you more precautions must be taken. These findings must be recorded and implemented and updated as necessary. If you employ five or more people they must be written down.
You should ensure minimum standards for disabled people and make reasonable adjustments to show you do not discriminate against them.
As a basic requirement in any workplace there must be clean, working toilets. It is possible to have mixed facilities for men and women as long as they are enclosed and lockable from the inside. There must also be both hot and cold water, soap and towels or a hand-dryer.
As an employer you must also provide a supply of mains or bottled drinking water.
Everything should be done to make your staff comfortable at work, and this includes the regular cleaning of work areas. Waste must be removed regularly and there must be sufficient space and ventilation for people to work comfortably. The minimum recommended amount of space for each employee is at least 11 cubic meters of working space.
The temperature of the building should be regulated and comfortable. It should be at least 16 degrees Celsius for people seated at a desk or don’t have to move around much. If staff do active work the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. If you need lower temperatures in your business, for instance in factories or cold storage places you must provide employees with protective clothing, and staff should not be exposed for too long.
As an employer you must make sure workers are comfortable and given regular breaks, especially those using computers. Ideally workers should take breaks away from screens at least every two hours so employers should plan workers daily activities with this in mind. Eye tests should be offered and paid for at regular intervals.
Users should be easily able to adjust brightness and contrast of their computer, there should be no screen flickering and the screen must tilt and swivel to suit the needs of the operator and be free from reflective glare. The keyboard should be tiltable and separate from the screen (unlike most laptops), so workers are comfortable. Chairs must be stable, with height and seat back adjustment. Workplace layout should be planned carefully to avoid glare or reflections on screen, and there should be enough space at workstations to change position and vary movements.
Basically you must take risks to reduce any potential health risks you find, and carry out regular assessments of computer workstations, the people who use them and their specific needs and the work being done. Go to www.hse.gov.uk/pubns for further information on working with VDUs.
Put up notices and signs
The minimum requirements are:
- Display the poster Health and Safety law: what you should know, or give each member of staff the leaflet Your Health and safety – a guide for workers – this contains the same information.
- Display a no smoking sign on the entrance to your premises, and ensure employees know the penalties for failing to comply.
- Display your certificate of employers’ liability insurance.
- You may have to put up notices or signs warning of specific threats or hazards such as moving vehicles or pipework containing dangerous substances.
You must provide appropriate first aid equipment and facilities. The very minimum you must provide under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1991 is a suitably stocked first aid box. In addition you have to nominate an individual responsible for restocking the first aid box and taking charge in an emergency. Staff must be informed of the arrangements – notices will do.
You will need to do more than the minimum if there are specific risks at your workplace (maybe dangerous tools or hazardous substances), or your workplace is remote from emergency medical services.
Legally you do not have to appoint a first aider, but it is advisable. Partly it depends on the size and nature of your business and the level of hazards. Make sure you understand how to report accidents (see below).
Fire risk assessment and plan
Every business must conduct a fire risk assessment and check it meets all necessary fire safety standards. There are around 30,000 fires at work every year and, by law you must consider:
- Escape routes to a place of safety
- Fire resistant doors and walls
- Firefighting equipment
- Fire alarms
- Emergency lighting
- Safe storage of flammable materials
- Staff training
If your building is sub-standard you will need to make changes. Some premises no longer need a fire certificate, but you do need to nominate a responsible person.
All equipment used by employees has to be suitable and safe under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). From hammers to ladders, to photocopiers and cars, all equipment must be suitable for its intended use, maintained in a safe condition and be accompanies by protective devices makings and warnings if necessary. Only those how have received proper training and instruction can use the equipment.
IT equipment has special considerations and you must comply with the rules outlined earlier in the article these come under Health and Safety and the rules are to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI, headaches etc).
Accidents and incidents at work
By law you must keep specific records of accidents or dangerous incidents. The records must be kept at work for at least three years. They can be kept as copies of report forms, detailed on a computer, as a written log or using the statutory Accident Book (B1510).
If someone has a work related injury which causes them to be away from work or unable to do their full range of normal duties for more than three days, you must report it to the Health and Safety Executive. Certain incidents, such as deaths, major injuries, certain work-related diseases and certain dangerous occurrences must also be reported.
Any serious injuries, diseases or dangerous incidents should be recorded in an accident book with the date and details of each incident, including the injured person’s name. Near misses should also be recorded.
Recording accidents and incidents
You must keep this information at your usual place of business for at least three years. This includes:
- the date and time of the accident or dangerous occurrence
- if the accident happened to someone at work, their full name and occupation
- if the accident happened to someone not at work, the details of the injured person, including full name and status, eg “customer” or “visitor”
- the nature of the injury
- the place where the accident or dangerous occurrence happened
- a brief description of the circumstances in which the accident or dangerous occurrence happened
- the date and method by which the incident was first reported to the enforcing authorities
- If you choose to report the incident by telephone or through online reporting, the Health & Safety
Executive (HSE) Incident Contact Centre will send you a copy of the record held within the database. You will be able to request amendments to the record if you feel the report is not fully accurate.
You can keep records in any way you wish, for example:
- keeping copies of report forms in a file
- recording the details on a computer
- maintaining a written log
- using the statutory accident book (BI510)
You must provide an accident book in which employees, or people acting on their behalf, can enter details of accidents leading to injury if you own or occupy: If you use an accident book, it is recommended that you buy one that complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.
You must produce records or extracts from the records when asked to do. Generally, you must also make the records available to safety representatives and safety committees on request for inspection.
Employers, the self-employed and employees all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of premises, equipment and the working environment under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Basically, you need to protect, as far as possible, anyone who comes to your business premises, not just employees, but also visitors, contractors and customers. Everyone else also needs to be aware of their responsibilities and make sure the working environment is as safe as possible. You must provide free health and safety training for your workers so they know what hazards and risks they may face and how to deal with them.
You will still have to formally assess the health and safety risks, act on them and eliminate or reduced the risks. If your business has special requirements, such as dealing with dangerous substances there are actions you must consider. Remember, if you work from home or on your own the Act still applies.
Working from home
Even if you work from home you must still carry out a risk assessment and follow health and safety regulations. If your workers work from home they should have similar levels of protection as those in your workplace. This includes the rules on use of equipment, computers, break times etc and you must check their equipment is properly maintained.
In 2007 the no smoking regulations became law, fire regulations changed and new environmental rules came in. No doubt the laws on health and safety will continue to change and it is important to keep up to date.