Health and Safety essentials for the small business owner

You may have been lucky so far when it comes to workplace accidents, but mishaps, slips and falls are a fact of life and failing to plan ahead and put the correct procedures could see your reputation in tatters and considerably out of pocket.

Good Health and safety practice is something expected from any responsible employer, below are some pointers to the key steps you need to consider take make sure you have the correct procedures in place.

Don’t just sit there trust to luck – Be proactive and identify the risks!
You can’t cover every eventuality when it comes to potential accidents in the workplace but Health and Safety Laws do expect you to undertake a proactive risk assessment to identify any significant hazards in your business that could cause harm to your employees or customers.

Your assessment should take into account your businesses specific circumstances and also identify the measures that you need to reduce the identified risks. A lot of these can be reduced or controlled by taking some simple and inexpensive measures. You must also ensure that you assessment is documented also detailing what action and procedures are in place to reduce these. This should be reviewed regularly and updated as required.

Don’t keep it under wraps – Tell your staff!
Having a procedure to manage Health and Safety is no use if it is sat in drawer and your employees are none the wiser. If you employ five or more people, you must at least have a written health and safety policy statement in place, setting out risks and how you are working to guard against these. Again this should be regularly reviewed and you should actively encourage staff to suggest improvements. The need for a written procedure isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of an HSE investigation you will be asked to produce this policy. Moreover in the event of a workplace fatality failure to have a written health and safety procedure can be seen as a gross breach of your duty of care as an employer, and you could be looking at potential imprisonment.
Make sure it’s managed!

From the outset you should identify a person in your company to take charge for managing health and safety. They should also take responsibility for assessing the gaps in current knowledge and training needs to ensure your company is fully up to speed when it comes to it Health and Safety requirements, and review this at regular intervals.

Getting expert advice and support may appear costly but can save time and money in the long term as well as sending out a clear message to both staff and customers that you take your obligations seriously. This can be obtained from a variety of sources from specialist Health and Safety consultancies to business organisations like the Forum that produce comprehensive Health and Safety Guide that is updated annually backed by a expert advice line.

With 78,222 workplace accidents last year and increasingly hefty penalties for those who flout the rules simply trusting to luck is a risky option. Just following these few simple steps can avoid hefty fines and a damaged reputation any small business owner would rather avoid.

The Forum has produced a mini Health and Safety guide that provides more detailed advice on Health and Safety and includes templates to guide you through a risk assessment. This can be accessed at www.fpb.org/health

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