As a small business owner, you are likely to have a lot on your mind. There’s product development, marketing, sales, and plenty of admin tasks to do to make sure your company survives. However, many small businesses forget about the importance of health and safety. It’s no real surprise. After all, when you start a company and build it from scratch, it might not seem as if you need to worry about such issues.
However, you should ignore health and safety concerns at your risk. The second you start up a company they should always be at the forefront of your mind. If you don’t take H&S seriously, it will come back to bite you at a later stage.
With this in mind, we thought we would take a look at some health and safety tips for small businesses. Read on to find out more as we walk you through what to expect:
First of all, it’s important to understand the role of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It’s a legislation put in place to ensure employers are taking care of their employees. All staff members have a right to work in a safe environment. And, if you break the rules as an employer, it will lead to trouble in court.
It’s not just a set of rules to follow, either. The Health and Safety At Work Act also requires you to take action and be proactive in identifying risks in your business. It is your responsibility to understand those risks and do your best to reduce them.
We’ll be honest; it’s a big piece of legislation, and it covers a lot of ground. However, in essence, the Health and Safety at Work Act asks you to use your common sense and ensure you take the best measures to keep your employees safe. And, throughout the rest of this post, we’re going to reveal some of the things you need to think about.
Drawing up a policy.
Every business needs to make a health and safety assessment to identify risks that can arise from work. Even if you work on your own, from home, it is essential. However, if you have five or more employees, you must have a written policy. Your health and safety policy should describe how you will manage all risks in your business. In essence, it outlines your commitment to making a safe working environment.
Of course, this might well take you some time – and if you are writing from scratch, you are better off seeking out a business lawyer. Or, you could outsource your health and safety program to a third party HR specialist. According to Ellis Whittam, you should find a firm that gives you hands-on, proactive support. Thy should give you assistance in making your risk assessments and ensure you are complying with regulations.
There are plenty of other options for you. The HSE have a variety of templates you can download, and they also supply guidelines so that you can ensure you are on the right track.
Understanding your responsibilities.
According to the HSE, you have a lot of key responsibilities as a business owner and employer. First of all, you are responsible for anyone that your business affects. That includes employees, visitors to your site, or anyone that uses your service. As you can see, there are a lot of people that the legislation covers, so it’s vital to take it seriously.
You also have to provide training and instructions to follow health and safety legislation. So, you should train your staff and sign them off for any aspect of your business that might be a risk. And, you should provide clear instructions on work practices. Also, consider the safety instructions on your products. You have to highlight electrical risks, for example, or dangers to children.
Why do you need to do this? In short, if you neglect your responsibilities, and there is an accident in your workplace, you will be liable. Employees or visitors can take you to court or make a claim against you – and it can be a costly experience.
You will need to provide health and safety training for your employees. Again, it is possible to outsource these activities, although you can do them yourself. Or, you can create a health and safety role and give it to one of your employees. But what should that training entail
You should start with a health and safety induction. This is particularly important for anyone working in a hazardous environment. Start as you mean to go on with every new employee and make sure you brief them on every aspect of health and safety.
They need to know about how to use equipment, and you should also introduce them to your working practices. Whenever there is a change in these practices, it is vital that you underline the differences to your employees.
Finally, you should also have a monitoring system in place. You need to check that your employees are following your policy rules and also ensure that your plans are working. Any failure to do so on your part could lead to a claim being made against you.
Health and safety signs must be present in your workplace wherever necessary. It could be a sign advising the use of safety goggles by a piece of machinery, for example. Or, it might be a portable sign to use when there is a liquid spillage or wet floor.
You also need to display a health and safety law poster – you can get these from the HSE.
Finally, make sure that all employees have access to a handbook that outlines all their responsibilities – and yours. Makes sure they sign off to give you protection should a claim against you arise.
It’s also important to cover yourself with the right insurance policy. As an employer, employer’s liability insurance is an absolute must. It will give you the protection you need in the event of an accident occurring, and should save you a considerable amount of money. You should also look into public liability insurance.
Your insurance company will expect you to take your H&S responsibilities seriously. That said, they won’t refuse a claim just because there has been an accident. In most cases, slight mistakes will not be punished. Check your insurer’s policy details for more information on this.
Key areas to consider.
So, once your health and safety policy is in place, what do you need to look out for? Several common accidents occur in every workplace. Slips, trips, and falls, for example, are the most common cause of injury at work. It is essential, then, that you have clear pathways at all times, and that your employees understand the need to tidy up after themselves.
Be aware of fire hazards, too, and make sure you have regular fire safety training sessions. Regular drills will also cover you if a fire becomes a reality. Again, it’s all about promoting these ideas and responses to your employees, so they understand what they need to do when the time comes.
The key thing to understand about health and safety is that everything stems from you. If you start out with good practice, it will become part of your daily routine. And, more importantly, the routine of all your workers.
Let us know your thoughts on health and safety for small business. Or, if you have any advice – feel free to leave that, too!