As an employer in the UK, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that your workplace is a safe environment. It is about more than that though; safe and happy employees are more productive, and it is in your own interests to comply with the rules and regulations. There are general laws that apply to all employments, and other laws that are specific to more dangerous industries. Employers in the UK are very lucky in this regard, as they have the Health and Safety Executive to help and advise them. They will also help employees if an employer is breaching the rules, as their main aim is to reduce the number of workplace injuries that happen every year.
There are also some rules that do not apply if you employ fewer than 5 people, but no matter how many workers you have, they deserve to know they are safe at work. Here are a few suggestions that can help you to achieve a happy, healthy and safe work environment for your employees.
First Aiders Are Vital
If someone has a minor accident and cuts themselves, they need to know who to go to that can help them. All workplaces should have someone qualified in first aid, as even with major incidents they may be able to help until the emergency services arrive. Just having a box with plasters, bandages, and headache tablets is not good enough – you need to arrange for someone to be trained adequately to cope with the possible accidents in your workplace.
There are various levels of first aid courses, and if you want some of your staff to learn first aid, findcourses.co.uk is a great place to start. Their site tells you about the numerous different first aid courses available, giving you information about each one and where the courses are located. This makes the whole process of opting for the right course much simpler.
Keep Walkways Free of Obstructions and Spillages
Walkways should always be kept clear of obstructions and spillages. All employees should be aware that they should never leave personal belongings where people have to walk, and all spillages should be cleaned up immediately or the area cordoned off.
If a shop worker trips over a basket left in a walkway, lots of other stock could fall on them and cause a serious injury. Office workers could bang their heads on another piece of furniture and sustain a head injury. The damage that could be done to a factory worker that trips or slips does not bear thinking about. If they happen to fall into a piece of moving machinery, they may be lucky to survive.
Keeping walkways clear is so simple, but tripping or slipping is the third most common cause of workplace injuries in the UK, and most of them could be avoided.
There are no legal temperatures your workplace should be between, but you need to keep the environment at an even and pleasant one. If your workers are too cold, they will be more worried about warming themselves than they will be about the work they should be doing. The same applies if they are too hot, all they will want to do is cool down.
The government suggests a minimum of between 13 and 16 degrees centigrade if the work is physical, but slightly higher if it is more sedentary work.
Clean, fresh air will also help to make your workplace more comfortable for employees to do their jobs.
The above suggestions are all fairly simple things that are simple to implement, but what if there are other dangers lurking in your workplace? Every employer should carry out risk assessments to find out what the workplace hazards are. You should record your findings and how you have dealt with the issue. This is not a one-off exercise, and you should carry out risk assessments on a regular basis.
In the simplest form, you have to walk around your workplace and try to identify any risks. If you are doing this yourself, it is a good idea to involve your staff as they may well be aware of a danger you have not spotted. It will also make them more aware of any other hazards you find.
You could employ a firm that specialises in health and safety to assist you with this. They would compile a report on any issues they find and give you advice on how to solve them.
You need to eliminate as many of the dangers as possible, and if one cannot be removed, it should be very clearly signposted in language that is simple to understand.
Health and Safety Policy
Once you have your risk assessment, you can compile a health and safety policy for your business. All employees should have a copy, and you need to make sure they understand the rules. Breaking the rules is often seen as gross misconduct as an employee could be endangering the well-being of others as well as themselves.
In the construction industry, just as an example, everyone must wear a hard hat when they are on-site, even visitors. For anyone working on the site, it is treated as gross misconduct if they are seen without a hard hat on and, especially with the larger construction employers, it results in instant dismissal from their job. This is because even something as small as a screwdriver dropped from height will gain momentum as it falls and become very dangerous if it hits someone on the head.
Health and Safety Officer
Just as with knowing who to approach if they injure themselves, your employees need to know who to go to if they have a safety issue. Things can go wrong between risk assessments, and some of them will need immediate attention. What if a safety guard breaks on a machine? Maybe some flooring comes loose in the office. A chair could become unstable in your waiting or reception area and you really would not want a visitor landing on the ground. These might all seem minor issues, but they can all cause serious injury, and having a safety officer could mean they get put right instead of you facing a compensation claim.
Research has shown time and time again that happy employees are more productive. They cannot be happy at work if they are too hot or cold and feel they are unsafe – but this is just the start. They need to feel they are more important to you than a number on a payroll and all that takes is a simple thank you for what they have achieved. It helps if you know their names too, although with a large workforce this might not always be possible. But you could let them all finish an hour early one Friday as a thank you, and that would be appreciated.
You and your management team need to remember that every job is important. From the office juniors to the managing director, they all have a role to fulfil, and without them, some work would not get done. They all need to feel safe and content when they are at work and then they could be the biggest asset your venture has.