Those of us who confess to being health & safety professionals can sometimes be perplexed by new legislation or codes of practice. It is therefore no surprise that many SMEs, who do not have dedicated health & safety resources, find the forest of health & safety legislation difficult navigate.

Not being able to see the wood for the trees can at best result in a lack of compliance and at worst in serious injury or fatality.

Here are a few tips to help focus on the wood rather than the trees. The seven points will not ensure your company is legally compliant with everything but it will give a good foundation on which to build.

Compile a risk register

Identify those day to day and exceptional activities that pose a risk to the company and its work force. Once you have done this you can then identify the ways in which to stop those risks becoming reality.

Have a health & safety policy

Having a written policy, whether legally required or not, can help you set out what the company does to keep its employees and others free from harm.

The policy should be reviewed and amended as the company grows to ensure it does not over or under promise. Ensure your policy is dated and signed by the person who has ultimate responsibility for health & safety.

Identify responsibilities

Identify who responsible for what, what that responsibility entails and where their authority begins and ends.

Arrangements as who is responsible for the first aid kit or who checks the fire doors may seem over the top. But these are the just as important as stating who has overall responsibility for the health & safety.

Spreading the health & safety load reduces the burden, makes the task manageable and gets employees involved.

Write down emergency procedures

This ties in with the previous ‘responsibility’ section. Use your risk register to help identify all the situations that may need special procedures.

As a minimum First aid and fire safety arrangements are required. Try to define what happens when there is an accident or the fire alarm is activated and write down the process. These can be displayed on the company notice board for everyone to read.

You also need to test the process, i.e. fire drills or simulated accidents, to make sure they work how you expected them to.

Training and competency

So you have identified your risks, identified the people responsible and have your emergency procedures. Next thing is you have to make sure employees are capable of dealing with their responsibilities. After all you do not want someone trying to bandage a paper cut or using a water based extinguishers on your electrical equipment.

Training should also be provided for the roles employees undertake. This can help to reduce the chance of harm in the first instance. But remember, any training provided should be relevant to the job in hand.

Keep records of any training provided. Records should include who, what, when and when it should be reviewed.

Accident and incidents

It is impossible for a company to exist and not have any accidents. You have identified your first aider and they have the training. But accidents still need to be recorded, investigated and where necessary reported to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

Use a simple accident recording booking, investigate all accidents, recording the details and download the RIDDOR requirements from the HSE website which tells you what you should be reporting.

Risk assessments

Some risk assessments are a legal requirement in the UK, i.e. Fire risk assessment. Unless you company is in really simple premises then getting a fire risk assessor is the best way to deal with this. All you need to do is carry out any recommendations and review.

Legionella risk assessment, again one for the experts, but this is a one off exercise unless some significant changes.

Task risk assessments and method statements. These detail what you do, how you do it and what the risks are. They also indicate what has been done to reduce the risk of harm.

Some useful templates are available here

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