So you will probably be wondering why on the earth we have used such a random title? Let’s face it H&S welfare, working environment and provision of clothing, equipment and assistance doesn’t really cut it as one of the top headline grabbing titles. Certainly doesn’t jump out and make you think I must read that…
So this piece is on the topics of H&S welfare, environment, workforce, clothing and specialist help. I have tried to inject a little humour… Tried being the operative word! Have a wee read and let me know what you think (assuming you can get a certain picture out of your head… read on and it will make sense).
What are my responsibilities for employee welfare?
You don’t have to worry about feeding them caviar and champagne (although if anyone knows of an employer that does do give me a shout!) although you do have to provide them with things necessary for their well being. The general duty is to make suitable arrangements for their welfare including ensuring the provision of facilities such as, toilets and drinking water.
Your responsibility extends to considering potential longer term health risks to your employees as part of your risk assessment.
What are the main rules covering the workplace environment?
The environment needs to be of a suitable standard therefore providing somewhere that resembles a teenagers bedroom would not be advisable. In fact on that front nor would having something like Joey & Chandler’s fridge be a good idea. For those of you who have been living on a different planet for the couple of decades – Joey & Chandler are from the sitcom Friends!
You should therefore consider practical measures including, amongst others, providing:
- clean, working toilets ( a hole in the ground probably won’t cover it);
- drinking water (mains or bottled) – sorry but a champagne cooler although a definite benefit probably wouldn’t be conducive to a professional working environment;
- regular cleaning of working areas (a word of advice, don’t hire me for this);
- a comfortable working temperature – no bikinis/ swimsuits or ski gear advisable. Although if you know of an employer who not only provides champagne but also allows you to work on a beach then pass me their number!;
- adequate lighting (both for safety reasons and for employee welfare). No disco lighting or any other type of mood lighting. Well, not on a regular daily basis;
- adequate space and ventilation – a bit like ‘Tunes’ to help you breathe more easily. Ok so not exactly but you get the idea; and
- arrangements for meal and rest breaks – don’t worry we are talking about times for taking them you don’t need to provide them with the local Michelin starred food.
Times have moved on substantially and smoking is not only no longer, seen as, ‘cool’ but doing it in public is a big No, No. Therefore your responsibilities include protecting employees from second-hand tobacco smoke. You must ensure that enclosed workplaces are smoke free, including putting up “no smoking” signs and taking steps to ensure that employees and visitors do not smoke on the premises. Remember this requirement extends to work vehicles that are used by more than one person or carry members of the public.
Best idea is to seek advice for specific guidance on what you need to do.
Do I have to provide any equipment or clothing for my workforce?
The short answer is yes but what type is more important. We are not talking about dress up, uniforms whether they be minions or suits, or any other type of ordinary working clothes. Okay so a minion outfit may not exactly be ordinary but lets not get hung up on technicalities…
The basics are: where you require your staff to wear ordinary working clothes then you do not need to provide them. The general thought is if the clothes do not have a health and safety role then they are not covered by the regulations.
You must provide personal protective equipment or clothing (PPE) whenever there are risks to health and safety which cannot be adequately controlled in any other way. You must provide the PPE free of charge.
Whilst talking about PPE it must be adequate for the purposes. You will have to train users in how to use/ operate it properly (no point in having a minion uniform if you can’t speak minion, don’t take this literally). The PPE should be properly maintained, correctly stored and are compatible. We are not talking about a dating agency for PPE purely ensure that things fit together (I can almost hear a bad joke lingering but I will restrain myself… for once).
Will I need any specialist employees or expert help?
Whether you need specialist employees or expert help will depend on your situation, sector and size. Unfortunately, just because you need specialist help doesn’t mean you can hire Daniel Craig in Casino Royal! Yes, you know the scene I am talking about. Although, this would be a nice thought. Please Mr Bond, I need some specialist expert assistance?
Seriously, though – a small office based business may find it relatively easy to meet its health and safety obligations. By contrast, a business with a factory might need substantial advice on regulations and specialist assistance with any hazards.
The main factor is ensuring that the persons overseeing health and safety in your business is ‘competent’ to do so. This person will need to be adequately trained and have a general awareness of the legal requirements. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the employee to have, or be working towards, a suitable qualification. Any particular specialist help will depend on the level of in-house expertise you have in place.
Hopefully, you will understand your obligations slightly better after reading this as well as having made you smile. Until next time, keep safe and strive for excellence.