Health and Safety for Beginners

The 10 basics for your business

Brush up on your health and safety knowledge with 10 things to remember from our experts at Base Solutions.

If you're working for yourself, staying on the right side of the law is a priority, regardless of the business, you're in. Your business may be fined or even prosecuted if you fail to comply with health and safety regulations. Failing to follow regulations puts everyone at greater risk.

Not only is it the law, but non-compliance can be costly. In the absence of effective risk management strategies, you are more likely to be injured or prosecuted, so improving your risk management is crucial.

So, what should you keep in mind when reviewing health and safety practices in your business?

1. Appoint a competent person

If you are an employer, you must appoint a competent person or people to help you meet your health and safety legal responsibilities. Ideally, they should be capable of identifying hazards and putting in place controls that protect their employees and others from harm. It isn't necessary for them to have formal qualifications and they are not required by law to have formal training, although a consultant or adviser can offer you help with health and safety if you can't manage it internally, for instance, if it's large, complex or high risk. Nevertheless, your legal duty as an employer is to manage health and safety.

2. Prepare a Health and Safety policy

Every business is required by law to have a health and safety policy. Health and safety policies describe your business' approach to health and safety and how you, as an employer, will manage health and safety within your company. If your company has more than five employees, then you must document your policy. If your company has fewer than five employees, no such documentation is required, but it is still helpful. A competent consultant can assist with this process.

3. Risk assessments

Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees and others from harm. In order to accomplish this, comprehensive and regularly reviewed risk assessments are essential. Hazard identification, management and mitigation are all part of your workplace safety. It looks at the risks that you, your team, the public or those visiting your premises might face. Areas to consider include:

  • Fire safety

  • Food safety

  • Hazardous substances

  • Safe working practices

4. Consult your employees

It is important that you consult with all your employees regarding health and safety. Consultation is a two-way process, allowing employees to raise concerns and influence decisions on managing health and safety. In many cases, your employees are the ones who understand the risks at work best. Involving them in making decisions shows that you take their health and safety seriously.

5. Provide information and training

Making sure both you and your team are up to scratch on health and safety training is essential. Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risk to their health. This includes contractors and self-employed people.

You must provide your employee's with clear instructions and information, as well as adequate training. Make sure to include employees who need particular training, for example, new recruits, employees who change jobs or take on additional responsibilities, and health and safety representatives.

6. Have the right workplace facilities

Employers must provide welfare facilities and a working environment that's healthy and safe for everyone in the workplace, including those with disabilities.

You must have:

  • Welfare facilities – including the right number of toilets and washbasins, drinking water and having somewhere to rest and eat meals

  • A healthy working environment – a clean workplace with a reasonable working temperature, good ventilation, suitable lighting and the right amount of space and seating

  • A safe workplace – well-maintained equipment, with no obstructions in floors and traffic routes, and windows that can be easily opened and cleaned