Starting up your own company is an exciting time, and you can get carried away focussing on more interesting decisions such as premises, staff, product lines, advertising and marketing etc. However, something that needs serious consideration at the same time is Health and Safety. As an employer you have a legal responsibility to protect the health and safety of your staff and other people – such as customers and members of the public – who may be affected by their work.
Health and Safety is a minefield of laws and regulations, some of which will apply to your business and others that won’t. It is not possible to cover everything that you will need to consider in this factsheet, however we can give you the starting point as set down by the Health and Safety Executive, which is the national independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness.
TOP TEN THINGS TO DO AT THE OUTSET
- Register your new business: You need to determine whether you are obliged to notify the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority about your business.
- Take out Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance: This will cover you against claims from employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their work.
- Appoint a competent person: The law says you must appoint a competent person to help you meet your health and safety duties.
- Write your health and safety policy: This is a very important document and should set out the arrangements you have put in place for managing health and safety in your business.
- Conduct a risk assessment: Decide what could harm people and what precautions to take, including equipment and protective clothing. You must act on these findings, by putting sensible controls in place to prevent accidents and ill health and making sure they are followed.
- Provide basic welfare facilities: This includes toilets, washing facilities and drinking water, and appropriate lighting and temperature. You also need to include first-aid facilities.
- Provide free health and safety training and supervision: Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health, so you need to train them and supervise their work.
- Consult your workers: This means discussing health and safety with your workers allowing them to raise concerns and influence decisions.
- Display the health and safety law poster: This is required by law, and includes basic health and safety information and lets people know who is responsible for health and safety in your workplace. Alternatively, you can provide them with this information in leaflet form.
- Understand RIDDOR reporting procedures: The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), require you to report work-related accidents, diseases and near-miss incidents.
The Health and Safety Executive’s website is a good place to start if you’re just looking for some additional general information – www.hse.gov.uk. However, should you need something a bit more specific, such as drafting your Health and Safety policy.