Companies that ‘do’ health and safety really well are those that treat health and safety as something that is intrinsic that should be cultivated, and not as a ‘tick in the box exercise’. But for those that are new to it, it can seem like a complex mass of regulations and procedure that can never be wholly catered for.
This isn’t the case and provided some key principles are adhered to; you can make a substantial impact with very little effort.
Write a Health and Safety Policy
You should begin by nominating a ‘responsible person’ within the business (this could be you) to oversee health and safety practices. If you work in a low-risk environment like a typical small office, nominating any sensible member of staff should suffice, but if you operate a higher-risk business, outside help might be needed.
With an ‘overseer’ in place, you should then write your health and safety policy. Your health and safety policy should describe how you intend to manage health and safety within the business, detailing who should do what, when and how. This may include any routine safety inspections or regular safety training provided to staff.
The resulting document should be accessible by everyone, and it’s a requirement if you have five or more employees.
Talk to Employees
Speak to the people who manage and complete the day-to-day operations of your business. Understand exactly what they do, and what risks are present. Understand how these risks are currently controlled for and whether or not there’s more that could be done.
Get to know how your staff engage best, is it through written materials? Videos? Workshops? Use this information to design more engaging training sessions that are likely to be remembered.
By opening a two-way dialogue, employees will feel like they’re a part of the process which will be a crucial step towards building health and safety into your company culture.
Once you understand how your employees learn best, design training that’s interactive and engaging, based upon the conversations you’ve had with them, so that they can see that their time has had a meaningful and tangible impact on health and safety processes. If possible, encourage other members to teach future workshops or classes, as this forces the teacher to learn better and understand the subject matter, and it provides the audience with a changing rota of ‘teachers’ to keep things interesting.
Teaching and coaching also help to foster a supportive and collaborative culture; it also helps people feel comfortable in coming forward with new ideas or hazards that they’ve identified. Be sure to supplement your training activity with information that’s available on demand, posters and leaflets on common hazards are helpful, but you may also wish to video record your training sessions to build up a health and safety ‘library’ that your employees can watch at their leisure.
First Aid & Accidents
Regardless of size, your business must have first-aid arrangements in place. As the business owner, and possibly, the nominated ‘responsible person’, you will be responsible for making sure that staff receive immediate attention in the event of an accident or injury.
The risk-level and organisation of your business will dictate your first-aid needs, and a risk assessment should highlight your requirements. As a minimum, you should have someone in charge of making first-aid arrangements; you should have a well-stocked first aid kit and a go-to resource for employees, so they can seek direction should anyone require first-aid. Many businesses decide to have a member of their staff trained by an accredited body to be a qualified first-aider, which is often a cost-effective option.
If your employees know that other members of the team ‘have their back’ in the event of an injury, this too can help with culture building and teamwork.
The odds are that you’ve seen these already. Health and safety posters are a commonplace sight. In fact, it’s the law to display the Health and Safety Law poster, unless you provide every employee with a smaller ‘pocket card’ version.
This poster should outline who the responsible person is and what emergency procedures to follow. It should be displayed somewhere highly visible for all to see.
If you have people working for you, it is highly likely that you will need employer’s liability insurance. If someone is injured, and they later file an injury at work claim, it’s your insurance that will cover the cost of their compensation and possibly, your legal fees. However, if you can demonstrate a proactive and well thought out policy to protect your employees from harm, then the chances are that you won’t need to pay compensation.
Many insurers provide support and guidance on the kinds of health and safety practices they expect to see in a workplace which may give you food for thought – if an insurer can help you to prevent accidents from happening, the insurer won’t need to pay out, so providing this support works in their favour.
In summary, health and safety policy needn’t be the arduous admin job that many make it out to be. It’s possible to develop a robust and engaging health and safety program that encourages the early identification and remedy of hazards before they lead to accidents and injury.
Work to make it a part of your company culture, not a tick in the box exercise.