Health and safety may not be the first thing you think about amidst the excitement of setting up a new business, but compliance is essential for success. Get it wrong, or worse ignore it altogether, and you risk endangering your people, damaging your business reputation and incurring potentially devastating expenses.
So what are the health and safety basics to consider as a new business owner in the UK?
Business owners and employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and any other people who come into contact with their business — such as customers and suppliers.
This means that you must do what is “reasonably practicable” to ensure the safety of those affected by your business, including conducting risk assessments, providing employees with relevant health and safety information and training, writing a health and safety policy and consulting employees about safe working practices. You are required by law to display the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approved law poster or circulate the equivalent leaflet to employees. An employer must make extra provisions for some people, such as those with disabilities, young people (under 18s) and pregnant women.
Every business is unique and has its own workplace hazards. All employers must follow general health and safety law, but there may be additional regulations that apply to your business depending on the sector you work in and the tasks your employees are expected to perform. It’s your responsibility to learn about the legislation that affects your business and to maintain compliance.
Businesses must also have employers’ liability insurance to comply with the law (unless you have no employees or all of your employees are family members).
Employers must appoint a “competent person” or people to ensure that the business complies with health and safety law. There are no fixed qualifications required for this role but the individual(s) chosen must have the experience and knowledge to recognise workplace hazards and implement preventative policies and procedures. A competent person can be the business owner, an employee or someone outside the business such as a health and safety consultant.
Every business is legally required to establish a health and safety policy which sets out the overarching approach to workplace safety as well as the specifics of how this is implemented, managed and reviewed. Some questions you might want to consider include:
Employers with five or more employees must have a written policy; smaller businesses do not have to produce a written document but it may be helpful to create one.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require all businesses to identify workplace hazards that could cause injury or illness, determine the degree of risk and put systems in place to eliminate or control the risks identified.
You must consider the risks that are specific to your business, including assessing different work areas and considering the needs of all those who may come into contact with your business.
You must consult your employees about health and safety in the work environment and take their experiences, opinions and concerns into account when setting out your arrangements to manage health and safety risks. This should not be a one-off tick box exercise, but an ongoing consultation process that informs the regular review and amendment of health and safety practices.
Employees must also be invited to feedback on the value and quality of any health and safety training and facilities provided.
As a minimum every workplace must have a suitably stocked first-aid kit, requirements will vary depending on the type of business and the work being undertaken. A person must be appointed to take care of first aid equipment and to call the emergency services This role is known as an appointed person.
You must also provide employees with information on who to go to for first-aid help, where facilities are located and anything else necessary to ensure that injured or ill people can get immediate help.
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) requires business owners to report certain workplace injuries, near-misses and work-related disease to the HSE.
Businesses with more than ten employees must keep an accident book or an electronic equivalent for recording workplace accidents.
Getting to grips with Health and Safety legislation and understanding which regulations apply to your business can be overwhelming. There’s so much to think about when setting up a new business, addressing health and safety requirements can be an easy task to keep pushing down the to-do list. Yet non-compliance could put your people at risk and make your business vulnerable to unnecessary costs and legal action.
Howlett Health and Safety Services can help you find out which processes you need to implement by undertaking a health and safety review and incorporating information from a register of applicable regulations. Our consultant if requested will put together a list of regulations applicable to your business activities ensuring that you remain legally compliant. We can also help you write a h&s policy, conduct risk assessments, and deliver staff training.
Get in touch today for a free quote and 15-minute consultation.