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Health and safety at work – is your business compliant?

Employers are legally required to ensure that work premises are safe and that employees are able to carry out their work safely. This duty extends to making sure all staff members are competent and safety conscious, as well as ensuring that any equipment and/or machinery provided is adequate and appropriate.

If an employer does not take reasonable care in respect of these requirements, they may be subject to legal claims by employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have set out a number of steps to ensure that businesses are compliant with health and safety law. The key ones are summarised below:

Registering your business with the appropriate authority (HSE or local authority)

Since 6 April 2009, the majority of new businesses no longer need to register with the HSE although businesses that work with hazardous substances or within hazardous industries are still required to do so.

Health and safety policies

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 so that you and your workforce are clear about where responsibilities for effective administration of the health and safety policy lie. If your business employs fewer than five people you are not legally required to have a written health and safety policy statement, but you are still have a responsibility to your employees to create a safe working environment.

Any written policies should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure they remain compliant with current law. Employers are advised to develop their policy so it takes into account their individual requirements.

Employers are required to provide a workplace that does not pose a health and safety risk and should therefore train, supervise and support their staff.

All businesses except sole traders and very small companies that employ only their majority shareholder must have current Employers’ Liability Insurance, the certificate for which must be on display at the place of work.

Employers’ duties in relation to the health and safety of their employees include psychological as well as physical health and in recent years there has been increased focus on the growing problem of stress and long-term workplace absences.

Risk assessment

Employers have a legal duty to carry out risk assessments to identify any aspects of the particular business or the work carried out in workplace itself that could cause harm to employees or members of the public. A risk assessment is a thorough examination of the potential hazards at a place of work, identifying who might be at risk of harm and what could happen. Once the hazards have been identified, preventive measures must be put in place to reduce the risk of harm.

Accident reporting

Reporting requirements vary depending on the severity of the accident. All accidents – including some near accidents – must be recorded in an accident book. If an employee suffers an accident or illness caused by work, details of this must be included in the accident book. All employers must provide qualified first-aiders and tell employees how they can access first-aid treatment at work.

More serious accidents must be reported to the HSE or the local authority immediately.

If you would like individual advice on how health and safety law affects your business please contact Robert Siderfin

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