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9 things your business must do to be health and safety compliant…

…regardless of size or industry

For a small-medium sized business owner, who might be juggling a collection of plates and managing several departments, it can be quite a daunting and confusing task to understand what health and safety actions are required of them. Businesses of different types and sizes will have specific requirements to adhere to and you should always contact the HSE for guidance if you’re unsure. But we’ll get you started here with a list of 9 actions that all businesses must carry out to be compliant.

1. Create a Health and Safety Policy

This is a plan outlining how you’re going to manage health and safety in your business. The more complicated and large your operation, the more detailed your policy should be. Its key purposes are to let your staff, customers, suppliers, and anybody affected by your work know that you are committed to effective health and safety performance.

It should clearly say who is responsible for what, when and how. For more info on this, read our dedicated article by clicking here

If your business employs fewer than five employees, your policy doesn’t need to be written down – but it must still exist. You have to show evidence of a plan.

2. Provide suitable workplace facilities

Your business must provide a safe and healthy workplace for everyone, including people with disabilities. This doesn’t have to be complicated, the basic things you need to consider are:

Welfare considerations:

– Toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand-dryer

– Drinking water

– A place to store clothing (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)

– Somewhere to rest and eat meals. 

Health considerations:

– Good ventilation – a supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system

– A reasonable working temperature (usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work, unless other laws require lower temperatures)

– Lighting suitable for the work being carried out

– Enough room space and suitable workstations and seating

– Clean workplace with appropriate waste containers.


Safety considerations:

– Properly maintain your premises and work equipment

– Keep floors and traffic routes free from obstruction

– Have windows that can be opened and also cleaned safely

– Make sure that any transparent (eg glass) doors or walls are protected or made of safety material.

3. Display The Health and Safety Law Poster

This is a fairly straight forward one, if you employ anyone, you must display the health and safety law poster, you can more information on that here. The poster must be displayed where your workers can easily see it. Alternatively you can choose to provide each of your workers with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. 

4. Organise suitable insurance

For most businesses Employers Liability Insurance is mandatory. It protects employees by indemnifying them against your business should they become ill or sustain an injury as a result of the work they have done for you. The insurance will allow the employee to claim compensation from your business.

Only a few businesses are not required to have employers’ liability insurance. If you have no employees or are a family business and all employees are closely related to you, you may not need it. For further details click here to go to the HSE website, or here to go to our article written specifically about this topic.

5. Appoint someone to help you with your duties

Having a competent person assist you fulfil your duties is a key step and a key decision. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.  

This doesn’t necessarily have to be an additional expense for you. If you run a low-risk business, health and safety is something you can manage yourself or one of your employees. 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 some external help or advice. 

6. Manage the risks your business

Controlling and where possible reducing the risk in your business is a huge part of your health and safety plan and performance. This is done through regular risk assessment. For most businesses, the process should be fairly straightforward. It shouldn’t be about creating large amounts of extra work or documentation, it is instead about taking a sensible, proportional approach to controlling your business-specific risks.

A simple structure for carrying out a risk assessment would look like this:

– Think about what might cause harm to people (these are called hazards)

– Decide who might be harmed by these hazards and how

– Evaluate whether you are currently taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. Is there more you could do?

– Record your significant findings, but there is no need to go overboard and record every single small risk. Keep it simple and focused.

– Review your risk assessment as necessary.

The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

Like the health and safety policy, if you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down. 

Click here to read our blog about how to conduct risk assessments.

7. Consult your employees

It’s very important, and also mandatory that you consult your employees on health and safety. It is after-all, primarily to protect them that all this is done. This dooesn’t have to be over-complicated or structured, if you run a simple small business it’s usually a case of having a genuine conversation with your employees. Speak to them about the health and safety work they do, how risks are/should be controlled and how training and information is/should be shared. 

You can either consult your employees yourself directly or through a representative such as a trade union. What’s more important is remembering that the conversation is two-way. The process should allow employees to raise concerns and influence decisions on the management of health and safety. Your employees are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace and involving them in making decisions shows them that you take their health and safety seriously.

8. Provide training and information

All of your employees and everybody else who works for your needs to know how to work safely. You must provide clear instructions, information, and adequate training, for your employees. This will change depending on the person, job, environment etc and it’s important you put thought into this. Consider how much and what type of training is necessary. A proportionate approach is needed, low-risk businesses with experienced employees will have different training requirements to a high-risk business with new employees. The high-risk business will need more detailed, more regular and more through training. Don’t forget contractors and self-employed people who may be working for you and make sure everyone has the right level of information on:

– Hazards and risks they may face, if any

– Measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks, if necessary;

– How to follow any emergency procedures.

Keep accurate records of your training so you can improve your training as you go along and ensure everybody is receiving the right amount. The information and training you provide should be in a form that is easy to understand so don’t have to go into too much detail about every topic, some training may be 5 minutes long and provided at the beginning of the shift.

Health and safety training should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees. For more info on this topic, read our blog here. 

9. Make first aid, injuries and ill-health arrangements

Effective first aid can make the difference between life and death and your business must make arrangement for it. You must make sure that your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or are injured at work. Your arrangements will depend on the particular circumstances in your workplace and you need to assess what your first-aid needs are. For guidance on how many first aiders you require, read our blog by clicking here. Most businesses will require a first-aid trained employee. This is someone who has been trained by an approved organisation and holds a qualification in first aid at work or emergency first aid at work.

As a minimum your arrangements should include:

– A suitably stocked first-aid box

– An appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements

– Information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements

The law also says that you must record certain types of injuries and illness, incidents and cases of work-related disease. You can find out which ones by visiting the HSE website here. Keeping accurate records will help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, and will help when completing your risk assessment. Your insurance company may also want to see your records if there is a work-related claim.

Bonus – Keep up to date and keep improving your health and safety knowledge

There are plenty of ways you can do this, the HSE website (found here) is the most accurate and comprehensive way. By regularly checking the website, signing up to newsletters and questions when you’re unsure, you can make sure your business is safe, efficient and compliant with the law.

If you need more help, just ask.

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