Q&A: How Important is Health & Safety for New Businesses
As a new business owner, it’s essential that you understand how health and safety laws affect you, your business, your employees and your customers.
Implementing a strict health and safety policy will keep you protected against legal action, and more importantly keep everyone safe from hazardous situations.
Does health and safety apply to my business environment?
Yes! Health and safety laws apply to every business, including self-employed individuals, no matter how big your company or how many people you employ. Your local authority will check to ensure you are abiding by these laws, and they can be enforced by the Health and Safety Executive which can result in prosecution if they find you are not upholding sufficient health and safety practices.
Do I need employers’ liability insurance?
If you employ any staff – even if it’s just one person – you need to have employers’ liability insurance and you must display a copy of your certificate in a location that is easily accessible by your staff. You will also need to display a Health and Safety Law Poster.
Do I need a health and safety consultant?
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations you need to appoint a person competent to ensure you are complying with all relevant health and safety legislation, although you do not need to hire a professional to do this. If you have the knowledge to do it effectively, you can appoint yourself, or another member of staff, and make it part of their job role.
Does my premises need a risk assessment?
All business owners or employers need to carry out a risk assessment and regularly review and update it to ensure you have properly identified all risks and have taken steps to reduce them or eliminate them completely where possible. You’re risk assessment will dictate your health and safety policy and include everything from fire safety precautions and first aid facilities, to keep walkways clear from obstructions. Your appointed person will have the responsibility of ensuring it is adhered to and properly reviewed.
Do I need any first aiders?
Not all businesses need a trained first aider, but you’re risk assessment will prescribe if you need any and what level they should be trained to. As an employer, your only duty is to appoint someone to take charge of first aid matters – whether you choose to do this yourself is up to you. Their responsibilities will range from organising the training to liaising with the emergency services and stocking the first aid box.
What do I need to provide for my employees?
As an employer there are certain welfare, health and safety facilities you need to make available to your staff. This includes:
- Toilets and hand wash facilities
- Drinking water
- Somewhere to rest, take breaks and eat meals
- Good ventilation and a reasonable working temperature
- Suitable lighting
What happens if I don’t implement a sufficient health and safety policy?
The HSE inspectors have wide ranging powers to inspect and enforce adequate health and safety. This includes being able to:
- Enter your premises at almost any time
- Take photographs and obtain samples
- Take possession of an article or item and have it taken apart and tested
- Take statements and copy documents
If they find your working practices are being conducted in a way which contravenes any health and safety laws, even if no one has been hurt, they will decide whether you should be prosecuted. They can serve an improvement or a prohibition notice to force you to change any unsafe working practices.
If the breach is deemed serious enough, or someone is hurt as a result of unsafe working practices – you can face criminal prosecution and time in prison.