Health and safety are relevant to all businesses in the UK, and every business, even self-employed businesses, are subject to at least some health and safety rules.
Non-compliance with Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Acts is a
is a criminal offence and can worsen the outcomes of any claims raised against a business if an accident occurs at work or as a result of the work a business does.
People often quip health and safety as being overbearing, pointless or unnecessary, but the fact remains that some 150 die at work every year due to largely preventable accidents. Some common causes of workplace accidents include falling from heights, being trapped or crushed, being struck by moving vehicles, contact with machinery or being struck by objects.
Besides workplace fatalities, some 150,00 injuries occur at work every year, many of which are serious, and some 2 million people become ill or have medical conditions worsened at work.
Over the past 10 to 20 years, health and safety regulations have begun to reduce these numbers - they were once much higher. As such, the point of health and safety for businesses is obvious - it ensures that the workplace is a safer place to be now than ever.
Evidence also shows that it is mainly smaller businesses that account for these numbers rather than larger businesses with stricter compliance checks in place. It is true that being able to hire health and safety officers to ensure business compliance is expensive and generally lies out of reach for small businesses, but nevertheless, small businesses, as well as large ones, must take health and safety seriously.
Business risk varies massively from industry to industry, which HSE understands. They published an A to Z of guidance by industry to help business owners understand what they need to do to comply with health and safety laws.
Businesses with more than 5 employees must have a written health and safety policy - for businesses with fewer than 5 employees, the policy itself doesn’t need to be in writing.
The health and safety policy should include a risk assessment. At a bare minimum, the Health and Safety Work Regulations act requires businesses to:
Slips and trips: One of the most common types of workplace accidents. Liquid spillage or uncleared ice are two prime causes of slips and trips.
Falling from heights: The most common cause of workplace-related death. Some businesses (i.e. construction) carry stricter regulations for working at heights (Work at Height Regulations 2005).
Strains and sprains: Strains and sprains can be experienced whilst lifting and working with everyday loads as well as when working at desks (e.g. RSI). Poor seating, unadjusted desks or poorly laid out office spaces can all worsen this risk.
Careless storage and poor maintenance: Poorly maintained tools, storage or other business equipment and furniture can break, collapse, overheat, etc.
Hazardous substances: Businesses working with hazardous substances will also be subject to stricter control (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002). Hazardous substances can cause injury if breathed in, swallowed or insufflated, rubbed into the eyes, etc.
Fires, heat and explosions: Some materials may need to be properly stored to protect them from fire risk. Equipment can be prone to overheating and needs special protection to prevent burns.
Stress: Businesses also have some responsibility for stress and other work-related mental health. Extremely stressful jobs require more input to manage employee stress.
Noise and Vibration: Noisy working environments are subject to regulations that are designed to prevent hearing loss. Vibrating machinery can cause muscle and ligament damage if left unmitigated.
Electric shocks: Another common source of workplace injury, electric shocks are often caused by faulty machinery and tools.
Vehicles: The second biggest cause of workplace-related fatalities, vehicles and their movement around the workplace is subject to heavy regulation to ensure safety.
The two main health and safety business acts in the UK, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, legislate and mandate the health and safety compliance of all businesses in the UK.
All businesses should take some time to use HSE’s resources to ensure their compliance. Failure to do so can be a criminal offence. Businesses that employ people will also need Employer’s Liability Insurance and should consider Public Liability Insurance and business legal cover too.
Bromley Night Time Enterprise Zone