General FAQs

It is a mistake to believe that accidents will never happen in your business, or that Health and Safety only applies to larger or higher risk workplaces. Small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) are likely to have twice the number of fatal accidents compared to larger ones. If you think your insurance will cover ALL the costs in the event of an accident in your workplace, then think again. Insurance will pay for large compensation claims in the event of disabling injuries, or serious damage to property, but this may only be a small proportion of the overall cost. Many of the extra costs associated with an accident or illness not actually covered by your insurance policy, may include:-

  • Wages of temporary workers
  • Loss of production
  • Repair to plant and equipment
  • Legal costs
  • Fines
  • Increased insurance renewal costs

These are referred to as the hidden or uninsured costs as they are not immediately easy to see or account for. However, these costs can have a serious effect on your business. It is estimated that these costs can be between £8 and £36 for every £1 covered by insurance. Of course, as well as the financial reasons for managing Health and Safety, employers also have a legal and moral duty to do so. The law says that employers must control the Health and Safety risks to their workers and to others, arising from the work activity. From a moral point of view, no employer would want to see an employee injured or becoming ill as a result of the work they were undertaking imagine having to contact the family to let them know their loved one has been taken to hospital.

As an employer you must comply with certain legal responsibilities. An individual as well as a business can be prosecuted, if a Health and Safety offence is committed. Penalties include fines, imprisonment and disqualification. Individual Directors are also potentially liable for other related offences, such as gross negligence.

No matter what size your company is, you will need to have certain arrangements, procedures or rules to make sure that accidents are prevented during the course of your day-to-day business. It is good practice to record all of these details in a Policy document. If you have five or more employees, it is a legal requirement to have a written policy in place.

Managing Health and Safety risks puts you in control, since it leaves your business less open to chance. A Risk Assessment helps to prevent accidents and ill health to you, your workers and members of the public. Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and harm your business too if output is lost, equipment is damaged, insurance costs increase or you have to go to court. You are legally required to assess your workplace, so that you can put in place a plan to control the risks.

If you are an employer your duties include:

  • Providing safe equipment and systems of work for your employees to use
  • Making sure that handling, storage, transportation and use of any articles or substances is safe
  • Providing adequate information, instruction, supervision and training on Health and Safety matters to your employees
  • Keeping the workplace well maintained including all stairs, passages and means of access and egress
  • Providing adequate and suitable toilet and welfare facilities
  • Ensuring that any non-employees (customers, visitors, etc), are not put at risk by your activities

Employees must take care of their own Health and Safety as well as that of other staff, customers and visitors.

If you are self-employed you must take care of your own Health and Safety as well as that of any other persons affected by your business activities.

As an employer you need to make sure that all your employees are trained well enough to be able to work safely. If you use Supervisors or Managers to deliver in-house training, they should be experienced and competent in the type of work or operation on which the training is to be given. They may need additional training in the specific hazards of the processes and how you expect the risks to be controlled.

As an employer or a self employed person, you will need to keep yourself up to date on how to identify any hazards, and control the risks arising from your work. You will also need to know about consulting employees or their representatives on Health and Safety issues. There may be areas where extra training would be beneficial.

The Health and Safety inspector may enter your work premises at any time. Remember that work premises can also include the homes of your home workers. Usually the inspector will be visiting to carry out a Health and Safety inspection. However, they could also visit you after an accident that may have been caused by work activities.

They will then be seeking to:

  • Investigate the causes of the accident
  • Advise you whether you need to take action to prevent a recurrence
  • Determine if there has been a breach of Health and Safety law

Whatever the purpose of the visit, inspectors have the authority to take certain actions, including:

  • Carrying out examinations and investigations, including taking measurements, photographs and samples
  • Taking possession of an article and arranging for it to be dismantled or tested
  • Seizing and making safe any article or substance that could cause serious personal injury
  • Requesting information and taking statements from people they think can help an investigation
  • Inspecting and copying documents

If the inspector considers that you are breaking Health and Safety law, or your activities give rise to a serious risk, they can:

  • Issue an informal warning, verbally or in writing
  • Issue an improvement notice or prohibition notice
  • Prosecute the company and/or individuals

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