We are delighted to have our member Jodie Symington, Founder of Moakes Health and Safety, giving us the lowdown on the fundamentals of Health and Safety (H&S) for small and medium-sized businesses.
Why does a small business need a Health and Safety (H&S) Policy?
If you have more than 5 employees, you will need to write and display your H&S policy. You need the policy to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, this is your legal duty.
What are the main areas to focus on in a Health and Safety Policy?
A Health and Safety policy is a written statement by an employer stating the company’s commitment to the protection of the health and safety of employees and to the public. It is an endorsed commitment by management to its employees regarding their health, safety and wellbeing, by outlining their responsibilities i.e Who is responsible for H&S at work (Management of H&S at work), H&S Consultations with employees, H&S information for employees, training and monitoring of staff and competency, accidents/ first aid. Ensuring safe plant and equipment, detailing emergency procedures such as fire evacuation and Staff Welfare and Facilities (toilets, drinking water, etc.).
Where can I obtain template Health and Safety Policies?
The Health and Safety Executive has lots of templates and step by step guides on how to write your own Health and Safety policy.
Should mental wellbeing be included in your H&S Policy?
Whilst it is not a legal requirement, I do believe this is a really good idea. With Mental Health Counting for a significant percentage of work-related absence, caring for your employees’ physical and mental health really must be taken into account and can be a good morale boost for your employees. In April, in a letter published in The Times, MPs and industry leaders highlighted the impact of mental ill health on businesses and employees and called for a change in the law to ensure first aid addresses our whole health, not just our physical condition.
How do you undertake a risk assessment?
I would start by walking around your workplace premises and look for any hazards (things that may cause harm). Write them down and then think about the risk (the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by that hazard, and how serious that harm could be)
Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed (employees, contractors, visitors, etc). You can involve your employees by asking them what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may also have some good ideas on how to control the risks. This is a good way of involving all your employees in H&S and to take an open and proactive approach. It’s another good way to boost morale and show that you are concentrating on the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm.
What else do I need to think about with regards to Health and Safety?
A documented health and safety policy is a legal requirement if you employ five or more people. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down, though it is considered useful to do so and can be adjusted accordingly as and when your business grows. It’s not a long process to complete.
Other things to consider :
Employees are required to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure their employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work. Employers must provide information about first-aid arrangements to their employees.
A basic workplace first aid kit should include a selection of plasters and dressings, scissors or tweezers. The contents should be checked and recorded on a regular basis, at least every 3 months.
As a minimum, a low-risk workplace such as a small office should have a first-aid box and a person appointed to take charge of arrangements, calling the emergency services if necessary, etc.
For low-risk workplaces with 25-50 people, there should be at least one first aider who holds an Emergency First Aid at Work certificate, with another first-aider per 100 employees.
Protect your back – if lifting and moving of objects, is part of your business, you will need to carry out Manual Handling training with your employees and repeat every year. A risk assessment should be carried out for each of the manual handling tasks. DSE (Desk Screen Equipment) assessments should be carried out annually for employees who are desk-based so that their workspaces are assessed and made as comfortable and fit for purpose as possible.
It is important to ensure staff take regular breaks during the working day. It is also essential that your employees are encouraged to talk or complete feedback forms (confidential) regarding their working day. EAPs (Employee Assistance Programmes) are a great platform for employers to use to offer their employees confidential counselling and advice on a wide range of work and personal issues. These can be tailored to offer unique bonuses and offers for staff.
Bacteria and Germs
Providing hand soap for washing hands and posters around the workplace to promote hand washing is a simple way of reducing the spread of germs. If you are working with chemicals, staff to be trained on COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), appropriate COSHH risk assessments carried out. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) needs to be provided and worn. If you or a member of your team are allergic to latex it is simple enough to have latex-free gloves in stock.
The insurance you need depends on your business. Employers’ liability cover is a legal requirement for most businesses with staff. Public liability insurance is important if you’re in contact with members of the public, and professional indemnity insurance is useful if your business offers advice.
Whilst many of these areas may seem like simple common sense, it’s often the simple things that are easily overlooked, especially when you are busy running a business. That’s why it’s always helpful to appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. This person should have the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to manage health and safety and put in place any policies or protocols that may be missing.
Appointing a Competent Person
For someone running a low-risk business, you may feel you can manage health and safety without buying in expert help. Here you could appoint yourself as the competent health and safety person or a trusted member of your team. However, if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health and safety in-house, or if you are a higher-risk business, you may need to consider some external help or advice.
I established Moakes Health and Safety because I wanted to create a service for smaller businesses to be able to pick up the phone and assist with their health and safety queries or concerns. We provide an honest and open approach to Health and Safety allowing you to meet these fundamental obligations, reduce risk, improve the wellbeing of your employees and ensure all necessary and appropriate information and training, is available to your teams without disruption to your business. We can also produce your General, Manual Handling and COSHH Risk Assessments as well as develop a management system which incorporates your Policies, Procedures and Handbook, all in one Manual.
I look forward to helping more of you in the future and I can be contacted on 07730558060 or via my website www.moakes.co.uk