Health and Safety & Environmental
Health and Safety is a highly regulated area of business law that impacts on virtually every aspect of the business environment. You have a legal responsibility to ensure the Health and Safety of employees and visitors to your premises as well as anyone who can be affected by products you manufacture or supply. This also includes anybody local to your business that could be affected by your activities. As with any area of compliance, if you take a sensible approach then managing it successfully will be relatively straight forward.
There is no specific requirement to register your business with the Health & Safety Executive or local authority but if you have any doubts about your legal position or obligations on this you must check and comply as necessary.
Both the HSE and local authority websites will contain information to guide and support you … especially if special circumstances apply to your area of business. This could be something requiring special licensing or permission for handling hazardous waste, or manufacturing that uses dangerous chemicals for example. If in doubt, check it out!
If you have premises and plan to employ people you must maintain a minimum level of compliance to Health and Safety standards and ensuring the wellbeing of your employees has to be a priority.
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Health and Safety Risk Assessment
Setting out a robust risk assessment is the first stage to minimising issues and writing out a risk assessment policy or document is good business practice. The business should be assessed holistically but some of the following are prime considerations and there is a need to identify any risks that are associated with these areas –
- Look at all departments within the business and assess activities, particularly in regard to machinery or substances, where potential injury or sickness might occur.
- Review the workplace for potential hazards that could cause accidents like trips, slips or falls. This could include cables, pipework or spillages.
- Fire risks that can be present anywhere in the workplace.
- Moving vehicles both internal and external such as goods in and out or warehouses/storage areas with fork lift trucks for example.
- Machine, equipment or other high volume noise that could affect employees.
- Dangerous and hazardous substances which have the potential to cause harm.
Your assessment should clearly describe what you identify and what mitigating actions you will take. This doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still be present but that you have processes and procedures in place to reduce the risk to the absolute minimum. It is extremely good business practice to keep your health and safety assessment under constant review.
Health and Safety for employees
All your employees have an entitlement to certain health & safety rights and you are under certain obligations to ensure those rights are upheld within the workplace. Again, the Health & Safety Executive website (amongst others) has a plethora of information to make sure you understand your obligations and you can implement the necessary steps to keep your workforce as safe as possible.
Some areas which are fairly basic could be –
- Keeping working areas clean
- Remove waste
- Toilets with washing facilities
- Fresh drinking water
- Good lighting
- Good ventilation
Many such as these are common sense but there are also things which aren’t as obvious but shouldn’t be overlooked such as –
- Temperature within the workplace
- Health & safety relating to IT – especially the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) rules
- Rest areas
- Changing areas – particularly if uniforms or speciality clothing are involved
- Smoking policy
Not withstanding the above as things every employer should consider, you also have to ensure Health & Safety is adhered to with regard to areas of activity where specific rules apply (IT above is a good example) and ensure employees safety and well being.
With regard to health and safety, ignorance is no defence should something go wrong.
You need to take full responsibility for the welfare of anybody who works or visits your premises and you need to be fully accountable for the health and safety policy and its implementation.
Providing Health and Safety training and communicating the company policy is vital to minimising risk (you may even want to make a nominated individual responsible for on-going management of health and safety). There also needs to be clear guidance on specific areas of risk employees might face within your premises when undertaking certain tasks.
Health and Safety Documentation
Whether specific or general, a big part of their initial engagement and contract should be a health and safety document which sets out their responsibilities and your policy in regard to this. You also need to communicate your policy to anyone who may visit or come onto your site. Signage and posters are an extremely good way to underpin your policy and ensure there is clear communication of the legal obligations and expectations. The HSE website has numerous resources that can help with every aspect of health and safety, from ‘your responsibilities’ to signage and posters to use in the workplace.
Environmental legislation has become more prevalent in recent years and you have an obligation to ensure the business does everything to work within this governance.
Waste, utilities and resource efficiency are all areas which are now regulated to minimise the negative impact on the environment.
There are numerous agencies that can provide resources to support businesses in understanding their responsibilities and obligations. Along with information from your local authority and industry specific trade bodies or associations, the main ones for guidance would be –
- The Environment Agency
- Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP)
- Health & Safety Executive
- The Carbon Trust
Penalties for any environmental damage or any negative impact can carry severe penalties and your business will be held responsible for anything attributable to the activities you undertake or actions that cause environmental damage. That includes responsibility for any external organisation you charge with disposing of your waste.
On the positive side, there could be financial incentives or potential funding to support environmental initiatives and resource efficiency. Recycling can have a highly beneficial impact on a business through cost reduction (not to mention the positive marketing messages that can be attached to it).
It is important that you protect your teams and yourself while at work. Consult with an expert to ensure you’ve done everything you can to keep people safe and to keep you complying with the rules.
Health and safety thoughts from Yorkshire Powerhouse
Now you’ve read our article on health and safety – have you any more questions?
Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you or do you have any further questions – please let us know: