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Health and safety for businesses - where to start...

Updated: May 27, 2020


The legal requirements relating to health and safety applies to all businesses whatever the size. It’s about protecting people and your business. People can be your employees, visitors to your premises, your clients and also members of the public. If health and safety doesn’t form part of your business plan then your business is vulnerable to financial claims from people who have been badly affected by your working activities, and prosecution if you are found to be in breach of failing to meet your legal responsibilities.

Health and safety is far reaching and not all of it will necessarily apply to your business. If you have five or more employees you will need to demonstrate you have health and safety arrangements in place and these have to be put in writing.

However, in some cases it is sensible to record health and safety arrangements even if you have less than five employees, such as if you are a sole trader and the working activities you do create key risks which could affect others, or you use contractors. By preparing a written risk assessment and method statement will help you to identify what control measures you need, in order to reduce the risk of any accidents happening, and it will mean evidence is in place to demonstrate that you have considered health and safety should a problem occur.

The initial steps to take when putting health and safety in place is to start with preparing a policy statement which has to be signed by the most senior person in the business. Together with this policy there should be information about who is responsible for health and safety within the business, together with details of the arrangements you have to protect people. Arrangements can include things like completing risk assessments, details of safety measures within your premises, protecting vulnerable people such as young workers and new and expectant mothers.

The next step is to complete a general risk assessment which looks at the risks relating to your premises, your working activities – including any off site activities. In some cases further risk assessments may be required if you use and handle chemicals or substances, use computers or laptops, work at height or carry/handle heavy loads.

The purpose of completing these risk assessments is to ensure that measures are in place to reduce the risk of injury. Risk assessments should be treated as a working document in order to develop an action plan.

Finally, ensure your employees are trained in safe working practices which enables your safety arrangements and risk assessment findings to be embedded successfully within your business.

Policies, procedures and assessments should be reviewed annually or sooner if there are any significant changes.

If you would like to understand which parts of health and safety apply to your business please get in touch to arrange a free gap analysis.

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