your mission

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

Having attempted my first blog with the rather apt name of ‘Blog Off’… the time has now come for me to follow through with my blogging promises. This means actually trying to put together an informative piece which someone might actually find interesting (it can happen) and useful. I will therefore attempt a very death defying feat, okay maybe that is an exaggeration; I will merely attempt to make you, yes you, aware of some of your standard Health & Safety (H&S) obligations without putting you to sleep…

Yes I know, I gave my self a hard mission and now I must chose to accept it. (This is actually the only tie in with the headline – cheating? Perhaps!) Unlike Mission Impossible this blog will not self destruct and I can’t promise that you won’t wish it had…

The questions that will be covered over the next few weeks may not seem to be of earth shattering importance however the effects of non-compliance can have a massive effect on individuals and businesses in terms of injury, cost (compensation, management time, fines, etc.) and public relations. As such are more important than you may at first think.

We will cover 4 questions in this blog, being:

  1. Does health and safety legislation apply to ordinary office premises?
  2. What are my main responsibilities under health and safety legislation?
  3. Do I need a health and safety policy?
  4. What does my health and safety policy need to cover?
  1. Does H&S legislation apply to ordinary office premises?

Put simply, Yes. Just because you don’t own an explosives factory – see I am maintaining the theme – does not mean you don’t have obligations. You are as responsible for the H&S of your employees and those who may be affected by your business.

In practical terms, different premises pose different H&S concerns. With an office, the hazards may be less obvious but they can still exist. Boxes left on walkways or trailing cables can cause injury hazards. Blocked escape routes, emergency exits or exploding tape recorders can pose fire risks (okay so I made that last one up). Offices often also have hazardous substances (such as cleaning products or printer toner) these needs to be dealt with properly.

In addition, a poor working environment can produce specific health and employee welfare problems. For example, inadequate lighting or ventilation, poorly designed workstations – I mean have you seen some of the spaces that Hunt has to work in!

  1. What are my main responsibilities under H&S legislation?

Firstly, you really should try and not injure/ kill anyone! Alright, I’ll stop being flippant however you are responsible for the H&S of everyone affected by your business. Obviously employees are covered but also non-employees, i.e. those who may be working in or visiting your premises (for example, customers, suppliers or delivery drivers). You are also responsible for people who may be affected by your business even if it is outside your premises and those affected by products or services that you design, produce or supply.

Further, you are also responsible for your employees’ welfare. There are many requirements however some of the general ones include:

  • Having a health and safety policy;
  • Carrying out a risk assessment, and taking action to control any risks;
  • Making suitable arrangements for employee welfare; and
  • Taking out employers’ liability insurance.

Unfortunately, H&S law has many regulations and it is often a minefield trying to make sure everything is addressed but it is something that must be done. The Regulations cover specific areas such as providing H&S information to employees, fire precautions, managing dangerous equipment and hazardous substances, providing a suitable working environment, and dealing with accidents and emergencies.

  1. Do I need a health and safety policy?

This answer is easy: Yes.

Further, where you have five or more employees then your policy must be in writing, and you must bring it to the attention of your employees. No good having a policy in place and not communicating it to employees. No communication = not worth the paper it is written on. It is often thought advisable and good practice to have a written policy even if you have less than 5 employees.

  1. What does my health and safety policy need to cover?

It certainly does not need to be ‘war and peace’ and should not be written in gobbledegook. No point in having a policy that no one can read, would want to read, or infact, if read, not understood.

Your policy should however set out your general approach to health and safety, for example: Do not kill people merely shot them in the legs so that they can’t chase you. Sorry going off track again, this is not Terminator… Seriously, set out factors such as ensuring the safety of equipment, establishing appropriate procedures, providing appropriate training, creating a healthy working environment, and so on.

Thereafter, it should include procedures for health and safety and set out the responsible individuals. Any specific procedures for dealing with hazards or risks, i.e. your fire evacuation procedure, should be referred to and included.

Don’t forget to make your commitment to review, and where necessary revise, the policy periodically.

Congratulations, you have managed to complete this mission without internally combusting or falling asleep…Well maybe you had 40 winks but you have made it to the end so pat yourself on the back and prepare yourself for the next instalment… You know you can’t contain the excitement!! Until then #BeSafe and #GetLawSavvy.

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