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Health & Safety issues common to most businesses .

23rd February 2011
By Herry Taylor in Legal
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Health and Safety Policy sets out how health and safety issues are managed within an organisation. A Health and Safety Policy is a commitment to planning and managing health and safety at work and is the key to achieving acceptable standards and preventing accidents and instances of work-related ill health.

If you employ five or more people you must have a written health and safety policy statement and a record of your health and safety arrangements. You need a written document so that you and your workforce are clear about who's responsible for what.

If your business employs less than five people you are not legally required to have a written health and safety policy statement. However, you must still ensure that you work safely - a written policy can help you do this.

Why is Health & Safety Important to Small Businesses?

Your employees have rights to work in safe conditions with a regard to personal health and it is therefore important that you offer them this sort of working environment: failing to do so can result in personal injury, disease or general poor health. Such occurrences can result in legal action being taking against your business (or you personally) which could damage the business financially and its reputation (including you – as an employer).

Responsibilities of an Employer

The Health & Safety at Work Act, 1974 states that it is your responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of yourself, your employees, and people that may be affected by what you do. Such people include:

  • Visitors to your workplace

  • The public that use your product or service

  • Neighbours

In other words, Employers must provide to its employees:

  • a safe place of work

  • a safe system of work

  • adequate plant and equipment.

Displaying your Health and Safety Policy

The health and safety policy statement should be displayed in a prominent position at all work locations and sites. A copy of a Company’s health & safety policy with full details of the organisation and arrangements for implementing the safety policy should also be available at each work location and site.

The health and safety policy should be reviewed preferably on an annual basis and updated as either legislation changes or working practices change.

Difference between Risk Assessment and Health and Safety Policy

A policy is different from a risk assessment.

  • Policy: general vision and arrangements for the whole business.

  • Risk assessment: a regular review of how you remove or control hazards, and whether you are doing enough, or if you require further controls.

Legal Duties and Obligations around Health and Safety Policies

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The Act says that you must prepare a statement and bring it to the attention of all employees. The policy should be reviewed and revised as often as necessary.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

These regulations place duties on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others arising from work activities. How this is carried out should be included in the policy.

Involving your Employees

In practice, it can be useful to involve your employees in preparing and implementing the health and safety policy. Where employees are involved in making safety rules, or devising safe working methods, they may be more likely to adhere to them, because they will understand the reasoning behind them. Also, the person who is actually doing a job can be best placed to advise on whether the proposed safe working method will work.

Informing your Employees

There are various ways to bring the policy to the attention of employees. If it is short enough, you may decide to give a copy to each employee.

If you are a larger organisation or your policy is fairly lengthy, you could post copies on notice boards or in appropriate places. Whatever you choose to do, you must make sure that you bring the policy to the attention of all employees.

Is it Important to give Health and Safety Training

You must provide training for your employees to ensure that they:

  • know how to work safely and without risks to health

  • know about your health and safety policy, how you implement it and the part they have to play

  • are aware of their health and safety responsibilities towards themselves, other employees and people visiting your premises.

Training is likely to be particularly important in certain circumstances. For instance, when:

  • new people join your business - from employees to work-placement students

  • employees change jobs within the business

  • an existing risk increases - perhaps because of a greater volume of work

  • a new risk is identified - perhaps when new equipment is purchased

Remember that refresher training is particularly important so that complacency doesn't creep in.

Monitoring and Review

Monitoring that the policy is still effective is vital. There are many ways that this can be done, including carrying out spot checks or safety inspections using prepared checklists.

More formally, effective monitoring can be achieved through audits and by reviewing management reports and accident investigations.

What should be in the Policy?

A policy is a written statement and should outline the following:

  • The responsibilities of those people using a certain area of the premises.

  • The Health & Safety risks that arise from the work activities and how they should be controlled

  • The name(s) of the employees’ representative(s) concerning Health & Safety

  • Who is responsible for providing safe equipment and maintaining its safety

  • The location of the Health & Safety poster

  • Who is responsible for informing and training employees for Health & Safety

  • Location of first aid equipment and the name of the person(s) who is responsible for recording accidents

  • Who is responsible for monitoring Health & Safety

  • Who is responsible for carrying out risk assessments and making sure that it is always valid and put into use

Is it Possible for Employer to Delegate Responsibility?

The organisation section of your policy should clearly say who is responsible for what. The overall responsibility for safety rests on the employer, but day-to-day responsibility can be delegated to others within the business.

In smaller businesses, it may be very easy to decide who needs to do what for the purposes of health and safety.

As businesses get larger, the organisation section of the policy may need to set out the responsibilities of staff at different levels of the hierarchy within the business.

The organisation section may include a diagram or chart showing the business structure and the responsibilities of:

  • the managing director

  • other managers

  • supervisors or team leaders

  • all employees

Construction Safety Plans

Construction safety requires skill, experience, planning, and training. No matter what type of construction you do, from putting up a building to installing a pipeline, you have to know exactly what you're doing. The wrong materials or the wrong procedures can make for tragic accidents, fines and negative publicity.

A construction safety plan can assist principal contractors to manage their workplace health and safety obligations.

A principal contractor must prepare a construction safety plan before construction work starts.

The plan must state:

  • workplace address

  • name and address of the principal contractor

  • principal contractor's ABN

  • whether there is a WHS committee

  • whether there is a WHS Officer appointed

  • expected start date

  • estimated duration of the work

  • type of construction

  • plant provided for common use

  • site rules

  • the risks the principal contractor is obliged to manage

  • proposed control measures for the risks

  • how the controls will be implemented

  • arrangements for monitoring and reviewing controls

  • emergency procedures

  • public safety strategies

The plan must be written so it is easy to understand, signed and dated by the principal contractor. It must be available for the length of the project.

Legal Obligations to Provide Health and Safety Policy

The obligation to provide a health and safety policy originally arises under section 2(3) of the HSWA. In cases of flagrant disregard, enforcement officers may issue improvement notices which if contravened lead to the ultimate potential sanctions of criminal penalties, including large fines and imprisonment.

Inspectors from the local authority Environmental Health Department, or HSE are responsible for enforcing health and safety law, and organisations can be prosecuted for breaches. All workplaces must be registered with either of these two bodies. Employees can report any breaches of the legislation or seek advice from them.

How should a Written Policy look?

A written health and safety policy does not need to be complicated or time consuming. It tells staff and others about your commitment to health and safety, and simply describes how you will implement and monitor your health and safety controls

Net Lawman’s health and safety templates includes following features:

  • All required information under the Approved HSE Code of Practise;

  • Details of the client / manager;

  • Description of the project;

  • Site location details;

  • Timescale for completion;

  • Design information including survey details;

  • Health and safety regards managing construction;

  • Health and safety details regards managing incoming / outgoing materials and people;

  • Methods and procedures for safe work;

  • Drawings and site sketches;

  • Lists of hazardous materials to be used on site;

  • Fire safety plan;

  • Site sketch including location of amenities, stores, materials, boundaries and the location of the structure;

  • Extensive notes to guide you.

Our health and safety templates have been drawn by expert Solicitor and Barrister who know what legislation is relevant to your business and the best way to implement it. Net Lawman’s health and safety policies are tailored to your companies needs.
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