3 Tips for Better Health and Safety in the Workplace

Peter Watson

Peter WatsonDirector at Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants

Friday, August 23, 2019

Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to keep their employees safe at work. There are also many practical reasons why it’s in their best interests to do so, of which the most obvious may be productivity and morale.

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It’s also worth remembering that health and safety breaches can turn into serious PR issues, especially in the modern world of social media. The good news is that it’s generally fairly straightforward to implement effective health and safety practices; the key to doing so is to keep thinking ahead.

Treat your competent person with respect

It’s a legal requirement in the UK to appoint a competent person. This is defined as a person with the necessary knowledge and skills to oversee health and safety in your workplace. For companies in the USA and other countries this is best practice to ensure the health and safety of employees.

It’s perfectly reasonable to appoint your competent person from within your organization, and have them undertake their health and safety duties in combination with other responsibilities.

However, don’t treat this as a “box-ticking” exercise. Your competent person needs to be chosen with care and given appropriate support. They also need to be allocated sufficient time to perform their tasks as a competent person in addition to any other responsibilities they may have.

Put all relevant information in writing

Employers have a legal obligation to put their health and safety policy in writing and are required to display a health and safety poster which includes basic items of information such as the name of the competent person, standard health and safety procedures and any other key health and safety information.

This poster should be easily accessible to all employees. These should, however, be seen as a minimum requirement rather than a target. For example, in addition to providing a standardized health and safety poster, companies could opt to include health and safety information on their intranet, which would probably make it more accessible to the average employee.

Companies can then supplement this basic information with online training options (or mandatory training), possibly tailoring them to different job roles. This would allow employees to brush up on their knowledge whenever they felt the need.

Undertake regular risk assessments

Risk assessments are not “set and forget” exercises. They need to be updated to reflect changes in the company. Any major change should, arguably, be seen as an automatic prompt for a fresh risk assessment, however, it’s strongly recommended to undertake risk assessments on a regular basis in order to be able to identify less obvious changes which could have an impact on health and safety.

For example, the arrival of an additional member of staff may not seem like it would cause a health and safety concern, but if space is small, you may find that the placement of desks makes it difficult for staff to move about freely and could potentially slow down an emergency evacuation, placing staff at risk.

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