Both employers and employees need a knowledge of health and safety in the workplace in order for everything to stay safe and everybody to stay on the same page.
By law, employers are responsible for health and safety management, and therefore the health and safety of their employees. Employees have responsibilities too, but employees and employers must both be on the same page in terms of responsibilities and who must do what. This needs to be made explicitly clear from the very beginning of an employee’s contract.
It is the duty of the employer to take care of the health, safety, and welfare of employees and anybody else who may be affected by the business, such as clients who visit on site. Reasonably practical measures must be taken to achieve this. If an employer is not doing all they can to ensure the safety of employees and other people the business may affect, they may find themselves slapped with a lawsuit. At the very least, it’ll end in a fine and a ruined business reputation.
As an employer, you must give your team information on the risks in your workplace and how they are protected from these risks. You must also instruct your team and train them on how to deal with the risks. They need to be armed with all of the appropriate knowledge to stay safe and navigate the workplace with ease.
Employers must also consult employees on health and safety issues. Is there anything your employees believe you can do to make things safer and more manageable? Make sure you find out.
Health And Safety Regulations
There is various legislation covering work-related health and safety that is designed to set out a lot of an employer's responsibilities for health and safety at work. There are specific regulations that cover certain areas too, such as chemicals, gas safety, construction, and asbestos. Knowing what the legislation means when it comes to you and your business is key, so make sure you look into this and know exactly what you must do.
The Health And Safety Executive
The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for enforcing health and safety at work. Appointing a health and safety executive that is equipped for the job and can be trusted is imperative.
Carrying Out Risk Assessments
The employer has a duty of care to ensure that health, safety, and welfare is protected while at work. Risk assessments help to identify all possible health and safety hazards. Carrying out risk assessments is something that should be done every so often and kept on top of in order to ensure that there are no new risks or hazards in the workplace that have been looked over.
It’s also crucial to appoint a 'competent person' with health and safety responsibilities. This may be a member of staff trained in health and safety, for instance. Make sure everybody is on the same page and that appropriate signage is put up where needed - for example, signage to point employees to the first aid kit and/or contact the competent person tasked with health and safety responsibilities.
Licenses, Permits and Insurance
You need all three of these things in order to operate on the right side of the law. The last thing that you want is someone shutting you down because you forgot to look into mini fleet van insurance or something along the lines.
We highly recommend that as an employer, you consult with a lawyer to ensure that you are following all the rules and regulations required to set up a business. This means going through all paperwork for where you live, ensuring that you have all the correct permits and insurance policies to operate without worry.
Businesses With 5+ Employees
For businesses that have 5 or more employees, a few other things are required. For example, an official record of what the risk assessments found is required, as well as a formal health and safety policy. It’s a good idea to get these in place if you plan on hiring more than 5 people, whether you have them now or not.
The Employer’s Duty Of Care In Practice
All employers have a duty of care; it doesn’t matter the size of the business. It is the duty of care of the employer to make the workplace safe, prevent risks to health, provide adequate first aid facilities, and more. For example, the employer should also:
ensure that plant and machinery is safe to use
set up emergency plans
avoid potentially dangerous work involving manual handling (and if it can't be avoided, take precautions to reduce the risk of injury)
provide health supervision as needed
ensure that the right warning signs are provided and looked after
Report accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences
Making The Workplace Safe And Healthy For Work
The employer has numerous responsibilities in order to keep staff healthy and happy at work. The place must have clean air and be properly ventilated, and the premises should be well lit so employees can work and move safely. Equipment should be in good working order, workstations must suit employees and the work, and equipment must be kept clean. When using equipment like Access Cradles, research should be performed to ensure it is rented or leased from a trustworthy source and tests should be performed beforehand.
An Employer may also need to provide suitable washing facilities and clean drinking water and if necessary, provide somewhere for employees to get changed and to store their own clothes. The workplace can make a huge difference to how your team are able to perform their roles, as well as how happy they feel while working and how healthy they stay in the long run. Ensuring the workplace is suitable is one of the most important things an employer can do.
It is in your best interests to report everything that happens in the workplace, even minor injuries that don’t seem like a big deal and near miss accidents where nothing really happened. If an employee reports you or makes a claim, you will have a written record of what really happened. If you do not write it down, then you can run into all sorts of trouble. It can also serve as a guide for what may not work in the future and how employees may need to tweak how they work.
Employees Rights and Responsibilities
Employees also have their own rights and responsibilities when it comes to modern health and safety - it isn't all down to the employer. If an employee takes risks in the workplace, knowing that something is unsafe, they will be as much to blame.
Employees have a responsibility to care for their own health and safety in the workplace. It is their right to refuse to do something that they don’t believe is safe without being threatened with disciplinary action. A safety representative or a trade union official may be able to help an employee that wishes to approach their employer, which may be necessary if they don’t believe that they are fulfilling their health and safety duties.
As a very last resort, an employee may report the employer to the suitable authority if they are still not taking care of health and safety measures after being approached. Employees should never feel obligated to do unsafe, hazardous things in the workplace and have every right to refuse.
If you dismiss an employee for refusing to do something that they deemed to be unsafe, they likely have a right to claim unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal. Again, this is something that could cost your business a lot of monet and affect your reputation. Ideally, it’s not something you should be dealing with if you are running your business fairly.
Taking care of health and safety in the workplace is a big part of your job as an employer. Make sure you heed this advice!