As someone somewhere once, said, “With great power comes great responsibility” and there is nowhere that this is more true than in the workplace. If you have employees, as an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that those who come to work for you will do so in a safe environment.
Of course there are laws which are designed to protect the employee (and employer and the public) and it is the employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people that they employ.
Health and safety sounds complicated, but actually it’s pretty straightforward. So if you are employing one or more person, what are your duties?
There are potential hazards to the health and safety of your employees in everything, from the height of their desk, to working at heights, to the use of electronic appliances or the clothing that they are using. As an employer you must make a risk assessment of every aspect of your business to ensure that your employees are not placed in a position of unnecessary danger.
You should be thinking about where the risks lie in your business and whilst there will always be normal every day risks, the significant risks should be focused on and controlled. The HSE website has a number of risk assessment templates which you can use to ensure that you aren’t missing anything.
To assess the risks in your workplace:
- Walk around and think about the potential hazards that you can see
- Think about whether these are high or low risk hazards
- Speak to your employees as they might know about other hazards that aren’t so obvious
- Think about the real risks – what is there that actually might happen – including accidents?
- Now think about what you can do to control these risks
- • Record your findings (if you have over five employees)
Some things that are easily over-looked and that you need to consider are:
- Don’t forget people who aren’t in the workplace all of the time, e.g. Contractors and home workers
- Some people may need extra attention – such as those with disabilities or pregnant women
- If you share a workspace with another business, you should consider how your work affects them and vice versa, and try to work together for solutions
- Remember that you should be thinking about the public too
- Certain actions carry further rules – such as working at heights, with chemicals, asbestos, machinery, gas and electricity.
- If you are carrying out a one off activity, this still needs to be included in your risk assessment.
You should also be consulting your employees about health and safety issues – either directly or through a representative such as a union.
If you are a small, straightforward business, with low risk and less than five employees, you don’t even have to write down your risk assessments or health and safety policy – but you still have to do and have them!
Health and Safety Policy
It is a good idea to write and display your health and safety policy so that everyone is clear. Your policy should cover who is responsible for what, such as health and safety training, liaison with staff and detailing where the accident book and first aid box are located.
As an employee you have an absolute duty to protect the health, safety and well-being of your employees and the general public. Obviously this should come as a natural duty of care, but there are laws in place to protect employees further. By protecting your employees you are also protecting yourself and ensuring a happy and productive workforce.
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