We at Walker Health and Safety Services Limited are attending the Health and Safety Event at the NEC in Birmingham on 10th-12th April 2018. The event provides the perfect networking and education opportunity to anyone responsible for running a safe and efficient workplace, anywhere in the UK. To find out how we get on, be sure to check our next newsletter for an update!
Workplace Stress taking over Britain’s Workplaces
As an employer, you may be aware of all of the physical harm that could come to your employees. Indeed, you may take precautions against repetitive strain injury, slips and trips, and injuries that may come about from lifting heavy loads or operating machinery. While you certainly should be aware of these issues and taking preventative measures against them, it is equally, if not more important that you also identify any mental health problems that could affect your workforce.
One of these mental health concerns is stress, which has seen a significant rise in British workplaces over the last year. According to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress now affects 1610 people per 100’00 workers, the highest rate for 11 years. As an employer, you should know how to identify stress, and look at how you can reduce workplace stress.
Symptoms of stress can be difficult to spot, since they affect different people in different ways. However, any changes in employees behaviour may be as a result of stress so they should certainly not be ignored. By taking a proactive approach, you can help prevent stress occurring in the workplace in the first place.
You can read more about workplace stress here.
Health and Safety compliance is sometimes seen to be something to aspire to rather than a core business issue. However, a new year is as good a time as any for employers to get to grips with sensible workplace Health and Safety. Here we give some tips for how organisations can start planning for safety success.
1. Be Realistic
In the business world, much like our home lives, sensible and above all realistic planning can make all the difference when it comes to making our aspirations come to life. The first step is often to stop kidding ourselves and acknowledge that we need to take action rather than burying our heads in the sand.
The law places a duty of care on employers. If you have 5 or more employees, you must have a written H&S Policy. You will need to have written Risk Assessments. You need to give suitable H&S training to employees. You need to make sure your premises and work equipment are safe and fit for use.
2. Plan Ahead
Planning is vital in business. Decide what the objectives are and plan realistically around that. For some organisations their objective might be to get their documentation in order. For others, it may be time for a total overhaul and re-launch of Health and Safety. Sometimes this may be the best option, particularly if the organisation has had an unsuccessful liaison with Health and Safety in the past.
As with most plans, there must be a budget attached. The law requires for employers to provide suitable budgets for Health and Safety in their organisation. Although the initial financial outlay may take some budget juggling, good Health and Safety practice will reap rewards in terms of process efficiency, increased tendering success, reduced insurance costs and employee morale as well as the more obvious benefits of avoiding the costs associated with an accident such as fines, legal costs, sick pay, repairs, bad publicity, poor business reputation and loss of work.
3. One Bite at a Time
The main thing with H&S planning is to make it ambitious, but achievable. Don’t necessarily expect total compliance with all best practice requirements over the first year of the plan… aim first for good legislative compliance and work from there. Naturally some organisations are further down the H&S compliance road than others, but the key point here is tackling the big risks first.
HSE is very keen to promote simple, direct documentation accurately reflecting the organisation’s activities. No-one is expecting a small business to have an all-encompassing Management System for Health and Safety, but they will need to make sure that control measures are implemented and adhered to.
4. Significant Risks
It is a simple fact that high risk activities will require a higher level of attention than low risk ones. An organisation using carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals for instance will need to have more controls in place than would be required by using cleaning chemicals in a simple office environment.
Risk Assessments should prioritise significant risks: ones that are likely to cause injury or ill-health. Look at your accident statistics and absence rates to identify any ongoing trends.
5. Management Systems
For larger and/or higher risk organisations, a Health and Safety Management System is important for ensuring a structured approach to Health and Safety management. HSE’s standard ‘HSG 65 Managing for Safety’ is a great starting point and follows a straightforward Plan, Do, Check, Act methodology, common to many business processes.
For organisations seeking high-level certification for their System, ‘BS OHSAS 18001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management’ should be considered. While it can be somewhat time-consuming and potentially expensive to implement, it is internationally recognised as the Health and Safety standard to aspire to – if you deal with an organisation holding 18001 certification you can rest easy knowing they have Health and Safety under control.
6. Get Competent or Get Help!
Health and Safety is sometimes seen as an mysterious subject, understood only by its practitioners, legal personnel and enforcers. However, it is not necessary for an employer to know everything about the subject – it is okay to delegate much of the management of H&S issues to others within an organisation.
The law requires the employer to appoint competent persons (i.e. persons with suitable qualifications, training and experience) to assist them with H&S matters. Again, this is a question of scale – low risk workplaces may require a relatively basic understanding of H&S issues whereas the more hazardous the environment, the higher a level of competence in terms of qualifications, training and experience is required.
If it is not feasible to obtain in-house H&S competence, the services of a Consultancy such as Walker health and Safety Services Limited may be taken.
7. Sell It
Manager and employee buy-in to Health and Safety is critical. If the employees down through the ranks are not committed to improving safety standards, then a poor safety culture will almost inevitably follow. To help secure director and senior manager commitment it may be helpful to highlight the financial and operational benefits outlined previously.
Once the management team is committed to the H&S Plan it can be rolled out to the rest of the workforce. The key message here is that despite the media generated ‘nanny state’ myth of Health and Safety the real thing is about sensible risk management, not making their working lives tougher. Consult with them about their work, ask for ideas for improvements and involve them in the risk assessment process.
Health and Safety compliance should not be too onerous, and the amount of effort put into it should reflect the level of risk of the activities that are carried out – prioritise the things that may actually harm people, the costs of which can be crippling for a business. Furthermore, good Health and Safety standards can actually improve processes, help secure contracts and lead to happier, healthier workers.
The first two are Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Working Time Regulations 1998.
Safe workplaces are productive workplaces, and as an employer, you need to know the health and safety legislation that applies to your business and make sure that it is implemented.
If you don’t, you may be liable for prosecution, and if there is a serious breach of regulations that leads to injury or death, it could have serious implications for your business and those responsible for running it.
The main duties of the employer under these regulations include:
- Making risk assessments to your workforce’s health and safety and acting on identified risks so they can be reduced.
- Having competent people overseeing health and safety in the workplace, giving the workforce information and training, and having a written policy on health and safety that is implemented.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The Regulations were introduced to reinforce the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The MHSWR places duties on employers and employees including those who are clients, designers, principal contractors or other contractors.
Also known as the ‘Management Regulations’, these came into effect in 1993. Main employer duties under the Regulations include:
- Making ‘assessments of risk’ to the health and safety of its workforce, and to act upon risks they identify, so as to reduce them (Regulation 3);
- Appointing competent persons to oversee workplace health and safety;
- Providing workers with information and training on occupational health and safety; and
- Operating a written health and safety policy.
There are two European Union directives that relate to the organisation of working time and how young workers, under the age of 18, can be employed.
These regulations implement those directives, and cover the right to have rest breaks and annual leave. The length of the working week is also limited, though employees can opt out of this if they wish.
The main protections for adult workers include:
- A maximum working week of 48 hours. As an employer, you have a contractual obligation that you cannot require employees to work more than 48 hours unless they have voluntarily opted out of doing so, which must be done in writing.
- Daily rest periods of 11 hours minimum, though shift working arrangements may be made if they comply with the regulations.
- A daily rest break of 20 minutes after six hours’ work.
- Additional protections for young workers include longer daily rest periods and daily breaks, and a shorter working week of 40 hours with no opt-out permitted.
Good implementation of health and safety regulations helps ensure your workplace can prevent, as much as possible, accidents and injuries, and means you are compliant with workplace law and encouraging safe working practices.
The world of Health and Safety is full of myths! Its important to know whats true and what isn’t. Luckily for you, we’re here to bust some health and safety myths, helping you to separate fact from the fiction.
- A woman was refused a pint glass with a handle in certain pubs and hotels, being told such glasses were now illegal for health and safety reasons.
- A man was told by a hotel chain that it was unable to serve burgers rare because of health and safety laws — something the panel was quick to deny.
Thanks for tuning into our Winter newsletter, and be sure to check back in May when we’ll be launching our Spring Newsletter! In our Spring Newsletter we’ll be letting you know how we got on at the Health and Safety Event, PLUS we’ll be busting more myths, exploring further pieces of legislation and looking at Fees for Intervention, and how you avoid them!
Be sure to print this newsletter and hand it out to your workforce so that they can stay clued up on Health and Safety as well!
If you have any questions relating to this newsletter, please contact Walker Health and Safety Services Limited. You can email us at Info@walkersafety.co.uk or alternatively, give us a call on 08458340400.
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