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Getting Health and Safety Right in a Small Business

As a small business it’s essential you are up to speed with health and safety law to avoid injuries to employees, which could result in legal cases. In the UK, the main legislation to follow is the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and managing the duties involved in protecting employees and/or members of the public falls on those at the top – employers, owners and directors.

Health and safety law states that all small businesses (even those working alone) must do a risk assessment, with companies that employ five or more people providing a written version. The policy is made up of three sections: a statement committing to managing health and safety effectively, a section on who is responsible for specific actions and one on what is going to be put into practice to achieve the aims set out.

As part of the risk assessment, small businesses must:

  • assess risks to employees and anyone else who may be affected by their activities;
  • create an effective plan for avoiding, monitoring and reviewing risks;
  • ensure competent health and safety advice is easily accessed;
  • advise employees on potential risks and preventive measures.

It may seem a rather simple process but failing to comply can have a significant impact on your business and individuals. Owners, partners, directors and others in similar positions are held directly responsible for breaches in health and safety law, and punishments include fines, imprisonment and disqualification from taking part in any type of business matters. shares some guidance on the best way to approach and manage health and safety.

1. Plan a risk assessment

A risk assessment will highlight the majority of potential risks in the workplace, and can be carried out by an individual who understands confidently what is involved.

Risks vary from industry to industry, so it’s important to set about spotting those relevant to your business and identifying who might be harmed and how. Take the time to show the plan to your staff, because their involvement could flag up any missed risks and ensure it works.

2. Put your plan into practice

Assess the significance and urgency of the risks that you and your staff could face and make a plan of action. Health and safety inspectors take into account businesses that are trying to make improvements, so don’t try and do everything at once.

Source the necessary components (e.g. signs, storage units and cleaning products) to remove or reduce health and safety risks, and train all your staff on the health and safety procedures. In addition, ensure you always follow suggested solutions so you’re leading your team by example.

3. Check your plan

Keep a record of agreed actions, even if it isn’t required according to the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), and take stock regularly of how you are doing, because very few businesses stay the same. It’s very easy to forget to review your risk assessment until something goes wrong and it’s too late.

If an incident occurs or factors, such as new equipment or personnel, have been introduced, revisit your plan to see how you are going to work towards prevention of risks. If you need to make changes, make sure you implement them promptly and efficiently.

Improving health and safety in your small business need not cost a lot, as the simplest precautions, like placing a warning sign in a forklift truck operating area, can reduce the potential for risks massively. Also, the repercussions of failing to adhere to health and safety law could be a far greater cost than if an accident does happen.

This post was created by – Safety Buyer are a UK based stockist of health and safety equipment for a range of industries, with several years of health and safety expertise behind them.

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