Managing Health and SafetyTuesday, January 10th, 2012
Health and safety really has got a bad name. We seem so tied up with its strictures, some of which seem so ridiculous, that it is becoming a favourite topic of conversation, replacing the weather. Whose fault is this? Is it the Government or the European Union who pass the laws? Or is it the Health and Safety Executive who have responsibility for enforcing this legislation? In truth it is neither. All these bodies set the framework but as for applying it in detail, it is prescribed either by more local authorities such as schools, who are frightened by the prospect of being sued by parents if pupils trip over a crack in the playground, or local government bodies who are wary of providing Christmas decorations in streets in case they fall on or electrocute a passer-by. Indirectly insurance companies and solicitors carry much of the blame, the former for pricing premiums at ridiculous heights and the latter for looking for opportunities to gain money for potential clients. However we ourselves fuel this fear, this compensation climate, by over protecting ourselves to an extent that both risk awareness and common sense are stifled.
At the heart of all health and safety legislation is a wish for everyone to use common sense in order to safeguard themselves and others with whom they come into contact. Unfortunately common sense is not a universally understood concept, therefore legislation defines it for us. You must of course comply with any regulations that are imposed upon you lawfully by bodies who have authority over you, but in the absence of such strictures you need to meet the following basic health and safety legislation.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the basic piece of safety legislation and every manager should become familiar with its contents. Essentially it requires the employer to:
- do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work
- safeguard anyone else who comes into contact with the organisation, for example contractors, customers, visitors.
It sets out basic obligations in broad terms but develops them in more specific codes of practice and guidance notes governing, for example, the provision of safe equipment and systems of working; the handling, storage and movement of goods; a safe workplace and exits; a safe and healthy working environment with adequate welfare facilities; and the informing, training and supervision of employees.
Employees themselves are required to:
- comply with health and safety provisions
- take care of the safety of themselves and others
- use the safety equipment provided by their employer.
Employees must not
- be required to pay for anything demanded by law
- be penalised in any way for refusing to undertake anything they believe to be hazardous
- be penalised for pursuing the health and safety interests of themselves or others.
The Act is now augmented by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations If you have not read these two pieces of legislation, do so, or at least study a good guide to them.
You must employ or engage from outside one or more competent persons who are trained and experienced in health and safety matters in order to advise and help you meet your statutory obligations.
You must publish a statement of your organisation’s health and safety policy that must include
- a statement of general policy signed and published by the highest level of management, for example the chief executive or site manager
- details of how the organisation implements its policy, for example who is responsible for what, lines of responsibility, safety officers, safety committees and safety representatives
- details of the arrangements for executing the policy, for example everyone’s duties, workplace hazards, training and supervisory arrangements.
This policy should be reviewed annually at least, and whenever any changes occur within the organisation that could affect health and safety. The document must be available for every employee to read. A visiting inspector will certainly expect to be given immediate access to it.
At regular intervals you must:
- inspect your workplace in order to identify and record all risks
- remove those risks, or if that is not practicable
- minimise the risk
- protect employees from them, especially new and temporary workers
- train employees to manage the hazards safely.
Also you must have procedures for dealing with emergencies including rules telling employees what to do and who is in charge.
If you recognise a trade union you should encourage it to exercise its right to appoint safety representatives, otherwise arrange yourself for representatives to be elected for the purpose. These representatives are entitled to have paid time off work to
- investigate accidents, hazards and health and safety complaints
- make representations to their employer
- carry out workplace inspections
- consult with the enforcing authority and receive information from it
- attend safety committee meetings.
In turn you, the employer, must consult with safety representatives on
- any health and safety measures being introduced
- the health and safety aspects of new technology
- health and safety information and training
- the appointment of the competent persons mentioned above.
Set up a safety committee whose members represent, and are competent to speak on behalf of, employees at all levels and from all parts of your organisation. The committee should:
- maintain a strict regime of safety inspections
- react to any health or safety reports or complaints
- ensure that senior management is advised of the health and safety implications of any new technology or other changes in the workplace
- ensure appropriate training in health and safety of all employees
- monitor the organisation’s compliance with its statutory requirements
To ensure the effectiveness of this committee:
- appoint a senior executive as chairperson so that the committee’s deliberations are brought to the attention of the senior management group
- instruct the person appointed to keep discussions lively, constructive and to the point
- make clear that members absence from committee meetings will be tolerated only in exceptional circumstances
Reporting of accidents and dangerous occurrences
- maintain an accident book in which you record details of any accident or injury, however small
- maintain another accident book in which you record all serious incidents including accidents causing more than three days incapacity beyond the day of the accident
- notify your enforcing authority of any serious injury, major accident or dangerous occurrence.
The Health and Safety Executive or your local council’s Environmental Health Officers enforce health and safety legislation. They are entitled to enter premises at any time, if necessary accompanied by the police, and have a broad range of inspection powers. A breach of health and safety legislation may result in
- unlimited fines
- disqualification of a director.
Worried? If so, contact us for details of help we can give in the form of training. Apart from that, from all of us at the learn Centre – have a healthy and safe New Year.