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Health and Safety Basics for Small Businesses


Employees are the foundation of any company’s success which means that their health and safety should be a priority for every business owner or manager.

Illnesses or injuries lead to higher absence rates which in turn lead to lower productivity. Moreover, if employees get hurt on the job or get sick because of improper working conditions, the company may face major financial consequences from lawsuits, fines and loss of reputation. These expenses can be especially crippling for small businesses.

Taking steps to promote good health and maintain a safe workplace, on the other hand, can help businesses avoid negative outcomes while also making employees happier and more motivated. That’s why it’s imperative for businesses to understand and put into practice the foundations of risk management and worker safety.

Are Small Businesses Required to Have a Health and Safety Policy?

Health and safety regulations apply to all businesses. All employers and self-employed individuals alike are held accountable for the health and safety of those who work for them and those who visit their place of business.

However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognizes that operating a construction company with hundreds of employees is considerably different from having a one-person IT startup. As a result, businesses with fewer than five employees are not even required to write down their risk assessment or health and safety strategy.

Companies just need to make sure that their employees are not harmed as a result of work-related activities. You’ll also be protecting your company’s reputation and future prosperity by doing so.

Staff Training

When new employees are hired, it is standard practice to provide them with a health and safety orientation. This orientation should highlight the specific risks that they’ll face depending on their working environment and duties.

In the event that your working procedures or equipment change, you must do another risk assessment and provide your employees with the necessary additional training. Given that you are legally liable for any health and safety violations committed by your employees, it is important to incorporate provisions for health and safety in their employment contracts. In particular, you should make it a disciplinary offence for employees to engage in behaviour that violates your health and safety policy.

Employees have a legal right to be consulted on matters that impact them, such as health and safety. If your organization is large enough, it may make sense to establish a health and safety committee.

At least one copy of the Health and Safety Law: What You Need To Know poster, which can be downloaded from the HSE website, must always be displayed at your workplace.

Where there are specific hazards, such as slippery surfaces or harmful chemicals, you must post appropriate safety warnings.

In general, you should keep your employees informed of potential threats to their health and safety, as well as the efforts you’re taking to mitigate them.

Prioritize Safety

Although everyone has a part to play in maintaining safety, business owners and managers bear a greater share of responsibility. Everything in your business should be focused on guaranteeing your employees’ safety.

When designing the work area, for example, machinery and stage materials should be placed in a way that emphasizes efficiency and safety. Again, it’s prudent to make safety a part of your company’s culture.

Also, during management-employee meetings, safety concerns should be discussed. Managers should also conduct frequent assessments to identify potential risks.

Employee Health and Safety Responsibilities

Employees are also legally required to take reasonable care for their safety. The Health and Safety at Work Act mandates that employees take reasonable precautions to ensure their own and others’ health and safety at work, which includes assisting their employer in fulfilling their legal obligations.

Employees are not permitted to interfere with or hinder anything done in the interest of workplace health and safety. Installing CCTV cameras can help make sure that your employees also follow safety regulations. They may be a divisive topic these days due to privacy concerns, but they do have benefits such as deterring intruders and helping you in negotiating lower insurance premiums.

An employee who is found to be in violation of their duties under the Act may be subject to a fine if the violation is proven. They may also be dismissed from employment if they fail to comply with a contractual obligation to conduct work with reasonable care and skill, provided that the employee has been properly instructed about the safety measures and has been informed that any interference will result in dismissal.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

This is a useful measure to prevent workplace accidents in your business. Experts recommend using a cross-border risk assessment technique, as having independent auditors audit your staff will be more effective. It’s important to remember that workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility. As a result, workers should feel comfortable to point out potentially dangerous issues.

There are specific concerns you must take into account in addition to any general risks you uncover as part of your risk assessment. The instruments and equipment you use at work, such as machinery and electrical gadgets, are some of the most significant sources of risk.

When considering the risk posed by work equipment, you’ll want to:

  • Learn about the regulations that apply to dangerous equipment;
  • Make sure all electrical equipment is inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications;
  • Establish measures to guarantee that employees who work with screens (referred to in health and safety jargon as Visual Display Units or VDUs) receive regular breaks to prevent over-exposure;
  • When purchasing new equipment, you must ensure that it is safe – buying approved equipment from within the EU usually meets these criteria.

Furthermore, you must ensure that your staff is working in a safe and healthy setting. Desks and chairs should be acceptable for the employees who will be using them, and seats should give adequate support.

The layout of your office or commercial space should facilitate safe movement – remove any obstructions such as wires or containers.

Dangerous substances are subject to special requirements under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

In a typical office setting, this usually isn’t a concern, but some substances, such as printer toner, must be properly labelled and stored.



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