Do I need a health and safety policy?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAW) makes it a legal requirement for employers to prepare and, as often as is necessary, review and revise a written health and policy statement. An employer is also legally obliged to bring the policy (and any revision to it) to the attention of employees.

Notwithstanding this, the Employers’ Health and Safety Policy Statements (Exception) Regulations 1975 exempts organisations with fewer than five employees from the requirement to have the policy documented. Therefore, if you employ fewer than five employees (including part-time workers). then you do not need a written health and safety policy.

However, at Ambeck Associates Ltd, we believe that it makes good business sense for all organisations to have a written health and safety policy, irrespective of their size or operations. Having a written policy helps to focus attention on important health and safety issues and can help to enhance a company’s reputation amongst new and prospective customers, employees, insurers and enforcement bodies alike.

For those organisations with fewer than five employees, the policy need only be short and simple.

What should my health and safety policy contain?

Typically, a general policy on health and safety contains the following sections;
A Statement of Intent – this sets out your commitment to managing health and safety effectively, and what you want to achieve. In many policies, this section states that the organisation is committed to:

  • providing and maintaining a safe and healthy place of work
  • complying with legal requirements
  • consulting and communicating with employees on matters affecting their health and safety
  • ensuring employee are competent to safely carry out their work
  • providing instruction, supervision and training as is necessary to maintain safe systems of work
  • reviewing and keeping-up-to-date the company’s health and safety arrangements, and
  • pursuing continual improvement

Responsibilities- this is about who is responsible for what in relation to managing health and safety and covers each level within the organisation from the most senior manager(s) to operatives.

Arrangements – this section contains the detail of what you are going to do in practice to achieve the aims set out in your Statement of Intent and to comply with relevant health and safety laws. It should provide an insight to the systems in place for identifying and controlling hazards and their associated risks, how the effectiveness of existing arrangements are measured and how the safety management system is monitored and reviewed to ensure good working practices and compliance with internal and external standards.

The Health and Safety Executive has published an editable policy template, which can be downloaded free-of-charge from its website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/managing/writing.htm.

A copy of this template is also available on the useful links page of this website.

How often do I need to review my health and safety policy?

Under the HASWA, employers are duty-bond to revise their health and safety policy as often as may be appropriate. If your policy is to remain effective, it is recommended that you review it whenever you believe or suspect it no longer valid. For instance, whenever;

  • An incident (e.g. accident, dangerous occurrence, near miss, damage or loss event) has occurred. This need not necessarily be an incident that has occurred in your organisation. Valuable lessons can be learned from the misfortune of others too.
  • There is a change to working practices, equipment, processes, materials and substance.
  • There is a change to health and safety legislation.
  • New information becomes available about existing hazards
  • Monitoring, inspection and audit activities indicate there might be a need to do so.
  • There is a significant change in personnel.

In the absence of any of the above and, where there is no other apparent reason to review the policy, then an annual review should suffice.

Do I have to display the Health & Safety Law poster?

As an employer, you have a legal duty under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations (HSIER) to display the approved poster in a prominent position in each workplace.

There are various versions of the poster, so that you can select the most appropriate for your business, depending on where in the UK your business is based.

Alternatively, you may provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent leaflet / pocket card.

When do I need to do a risk assessment?

You need to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of;

  • risks to which your employees might be exposed whilst they are at work (this includes being at work away from your own business premises)
  • any risks arising out of, or in connection with, your business operations to which people who are not your employees might be exposed
  • risks to which a young person might be exposed and be particularly vulnerable to because of their inexperience, lack of awareness of risk, their immaturity or because of the physical nature and demands of the work

If you employ more than five persons (this includes yourself), then you must record any significant finding’s from your assessments; including any  groups of employees that are identified by the assessment(s) as being especially at risk.

Consider the various working practices undertaken; both routine and non-routine and think about persons who might be especially at risk, e.g. young persons, new and expectant mothers, people with physical impairments, new starters, contractors, migrant workers and people with poor literacy skills, etc.

Your risk assessments must be reviewed and, if necessary,  amended if you have reason to doubt their validity and/or if there has been a significant change in the matters to which they relate.

More information on workplace risk assessments can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website, along with a free template, which can be downloaded at http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/faq.htm#q1.

What training do I need to provide?

Hazards exist in many forms across all industries so it is impossible to say here what specific training you should give to your employees.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees.

This duty is extended by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which identify situations where health and safety training is particularly important, e.g. when people start work, where they are exposed to new or increased risks and where their existing skills may not be at the level required.

Common areas of health and safety related training include;

  • General induction
  • Lifting and handling
  • Noise
  • Hazardous substances
  • Fire safety
  • First aid
  • Display screen equipment
  • Asbestos
  • Work at height
  • Electrical safety
  • Office safety
  • Risk assessment
  • Using personal protective equipment
  • Using personal work equipment

It is important that you also consider specific working practices within your organisation and include these in your training programme as appropriate.

A useful guide to help you with planning employee training is HSE publication INDG345 ‘Health and safety training; a brief guide’ This is available free from the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg345.pdf and can also be found in the useful links page of this website.

How many first aiders do I need?

This depends on the findings of your first-aid needs assessment.

The law does not specify exact numbers but The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations do require employers to provide adequate and appropriate first-aid equipment, facilities and people so that employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work.

What is ‘adequate and appropriate’ will depend on the circumstances in your workplace and so you should assess what your first-aid needs are. The minimum first-aid provision on any work site is: a suitably stocked first-aid kit, an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements and the provision of information to employees about first-aid arrangements.

Certain small workplaces with low-level hazards may need only the minimum provision for first aid but there may be circumstances or factors that dictate greater first aid provision.

The checklist contained in HSE publication INDG214, First aid at work; your questions answered, covers the points you should consider. This is available from the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg214.pdf or from the useful links page on this website.

How do I report an incident to the Health & Safety Executive?

All incidents can be reported online via the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/faqs/riddor.htm.

The Incident Contact Centre does have s telephone service for reporting accidents but this if for fatal and major injuries only. The number is 0345 300 9923 (opening hours Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 5 pm).

Only ‘responsible persons’, i.e. employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises, should submit reports under the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations (RIDDOR).

Reporting online

Responsible persons should complete the appropriate online report form, which will be sent directly to the RIDDOR database. You will receive a copy for your records.
The various report forms can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/report.htm

Paper forms

There is no longer a paper form for RIDDOR reporting, since the online system is the preferred reporting mechanism. Should it be essential for you to submit a report by post, it should be sent to:

RIDDOR Reports
Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS

Is it okay for my employees to work alone?

There are many situations in which it is safe for an employee to work on his or her own and there is no health and safety law that prohibits this. However, employers are legally obliged to ensure a safe and healthy working environment and so additional safety measures may be necessary for lone workers than it might otherwise be suitable or sufficient for groups of workers.

Lone workers must not be placed at greater risk than anybody else so you will need properly assess and carefully plan the work before it begins.

Things you could consider to help ensure lone workers are not put at unnecessary risk include;

  • The activity – Is the individual at increased risk of harm from hazards such as manual handling, working at height, violence, electricity, etc?
  • The location – is it remote? Is access and egress difficult? What risks might it present to somebody working on their own?
  • Timing of the work – Is the work to take place at unusual times? What impact could this have on the safety and well being of the individual?
  • Health – Does the individual have any known or suspected health condition, which might put him or her at greater risk when working alone?
  • Communication – How is the individual to summon assistance if needed?
  • Competence – What level of training, experience and knowledge might the individual require to safely carry out the task / work alone?
  • Monitoring and supervision – How are you going to make sure you know what is happening? What arrangements do you have in place to maintain contact with the lone worker and are these adequate for the circumstances?

For more information see HSE publication INDG 73 ‘Working alone; Health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working’, which can be downloaded from the HSE website for free at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg73.htm

A copy of this document is also available on the useful links page of this website.

What temperature does the workplace have to be?

Health and safety law does not state a minimum or a maximum temperature. However, it is accepted that the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

16°C (after the first hour) or
13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort

It is not possible to stipulate a realistic maximum figure because of the high temperatures found in occupations such as foundries and glass making. In these environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present.

Factors other than air temperature, i.ee radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment and Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends very much on the nature of the workplace, e.g. a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse and so on..

These Regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public.

Do I have to have portable electrical appliances tested every year?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently. That is, they do not make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually.

The frequency of inspection and testing depends upon the type of equipment and the environment it is used in. For example, a power tool used on a construction site should be examined more frequently than a lamp in reception area.

For guidance on suggested frequencies of inspection and testing, see HSE publication HSG107 Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment, which can be downloaded from the HSE website for free at http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg107.htm

A copy of this document is also available on the useful links page of this website under ‘Products & Services’.

I am sometimes asked if my organisation has SSIP certification. What is this?

Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) is an umbrella organisation, which was formed to facilitate mutual recognition between assessment schemes that undertake health and safety competence assessments of other businesses; using Stage 1 core criteria of The Construction, Design and Management Regulations. SSIP not a an assessment scheme in itself.

The key aims of SSIP is to reduce duplication, unnecessary paperwork and general burden at Stage 1 (Prequalification) procurement and to improve health and safety compliance by promoting a single standard of health and safety assessment, that clients can rely on. Suppliers do not join or become members of SSIP. It is only the assessment schemes who are registered members.

The assessment carried out by an SSIP member tends to be a desktop evaluation of documentation supplied by a business (a supplier) that wants to be certificated to that particular scheme.

All SSIP assessors are subject to a certification scheme, which is operated by an independent body – The International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA)

Links to the SSIP and IRCA websites can be found on the useful links page of this website.

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