Russell Corlett is the Health and Safety Director at global employment law and health and safety consultancy Peninsula. He has over 20 years of experience in the regulatory consultancy industry and currently manages over 100 consultants and advisors across the UK and Ireland.
Managing an SME comes with a lot of responsibilities, so it’s understandable that health and safety management might drift to the bottom of your priority list.
But unfortunately, accidents happen often without any warning, even in the most low-risk environments. Failing to follow health and safety protocol can lead to more absences, high sick pay costs, and even compensation claims.
Overlooking health and safety regulations comes with a hefty fine, too. Failing to meet legal requirements could cost you more than £30,000 in the U.K., so it’s important to get it right.
This article offers health and safety advice for SMEs, including what to bear in mind when identifying risks and ensuring safety for your employees.
Some health and safety regulations are industry-specific, but as a rule of thumb, these requirements apply to all businesses:
- Comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- Provide an accident report log for employees to record all incidents
- If your business has more than five employees, you must have a documented health and safety policy
- Make sure your staff know what to do in emergency procedures, such as fire drills
- Your office or workspace must have the correct health and safety signage
- Carry out regular risk assessments
- Display a Health and Safety Law poster, or hand out Health and Safety Law leaflets to all staff members
- Keep a fully-stocked first aid kit in the workplace and appoint a member of staff to be responsible for first aid
- Provide health and safety training for all your employees
Companies with fewer than five employees
If your SME has fewer than five employees, you don’t need to have written safety arrangements or policies.
Instead, prove you have properly considered health and safety issues by creating a small strategy, including information on:
- Risks specific to the company or industry
- Responsibilities of key team members
- Health and safety training
- First aid access and other emergency arrangements
Health and safety policies
As mentioned earlier, if your company has more than 5 staff members, you’ll need a written health and safety policy.
Your policy should contain a one-page statement of intent signed by the company owner or managing director. This should outline your organization’s objectives for risk management.
The policy also needs to outline your responsibilities to protect your employee’s health, safety, and welfare, as well as your staff’s accountabilities for their own health and safety (or those who may be affected by their actions in the workplace).
Controlling the risks in your workspace is essential. Risk assessments help you identify workplace hazards, which you’ll need to evaluate, document and reduce by taking the appropriate steps.
Your assessment might flag up:
- Fire risks
- Electrical hazards
- Manual handling
- Dangerous substances
- Trip hazards
Once you’ve identified the risks, it will be easier to minimize them and create a safe working environment.
If you have staff members that work alone, you’ll need to complete lone-working risk assessments.
Once you’ve completed your risk assessments, you’ll have better grounds for staff training. You should run through any issues raised in the assessments during inductions and staff meetings.
DSE stands for display screen equipment, such as computers and laptops.
If a lot of your employers use DSE to carry out their daily duties, you’ll need to conduct a DSE workstation assessment to avoid issues such as eye strain, stress, back pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Earlier, we mentioned that you should have an accident report log. Incidents recorded in here need to include:
- The date, time and location of the accident
- The injured person’s name and job title
- A brief description of what happened
- If the injured party needed medical assistance, and if they received it
- If the injured person was sent home afterward
- The name of the person who dealt with the accident
- A signature
In some instances, you will need to contact HSE, for example:
- If an accident results in an employee being absent from, or unable to perform, work for longer than seven consecutive days
- If an employee fractures a bone
- If members of the public are injured and need medical treatment in hospital
- If death occurs
Driving on company business
If you have employees who drive for your company, your policies need to ensure that staff member:
- Take regular breaks
- Have a valid driving license
- Drive safely and follow the highway code
- Don’t smoke in company vehicles or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Don’t take calls when driving
Unless you have no employees at all, you’ll probably need employer’s liability insurance.
This will help you to pay compensation if a court finds you liable should an employee become ill or injured as a result of the work they do for your company.
If you are a family business and your employees are your close relatives, you may not need liability insurance.
When it comes to health and safety in your SME, there’s a lot to consider. Following the basic advice above will help you keep your staff safe and abide by legal regulations.