Who is this guide for?
This guide is for employers and those who want some basic information on what they must do to make sure their businesses comply with health and safety law.
In general, the laws apply to all businesses, no matter how small. As an employer, or a self-employed person, you are responsible for health and safety in your business. You need to take the right precautions to reduce the risks of workplace dangers and provide a safe working environment.
How the guide can help you
There are health and safety laws to protect you, your employees and the public from workplace dangers.
This guide makes life easier for you by providing the basic information on what you need to do in one place.
For some work activities there may be extra things you need to do to make sure you are complying with the law.
If you think health and safety has to be complicated – it doesn’t. This guide will make it easier for you to comply with the law and manage health and safety in your business.
For many businesses, all that’s required is a basic series of tasks. The guide will take you through the steps and help you make sure you have done what you need to.
As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.
You could appoint (one or a combination of):
■■ one or more of your workers;
■■ someone from outside your business.
You probably manage most aspects of your business yourself, or with the help of your staff. But if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health and safety in-house, you may need some external help or advice.
Deciding what help you need is very important. Unless you are clear about what you want, you probably won’t get the help you need. Use the web links below to get more information and to help you ask the right questions:
■■ Get competent advice (www.hse.gov.uk/business/competent-advice.htm)
■■ HSE leaflet: Getting specialist help with health and safety (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg420.pdf)
You must manage the health and safety risks in your workplace.
To do this you need to think about what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that harm. This is known as a risk assessment.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, it is about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.
The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks and bring them to their lowest practicable level.
You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you whether you should be doing more.
Risk assessments also help you communicate risk to your workforce and share understanding.
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards: a hazard is anything that may cause harm. Look at things as if you were an outsider and remember to look up as well as at ground level.
Then think about the risks – a risk is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard, and how serious the harm could be (severity).
Think about how accidents could happen and who might be harmed. Ask your employees what they think the hazards are, as they may notice things that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.
Concentrate on the real risks – those that are most likely to cause harm. Consider the measures you are already taking to control the risks and ask if there is anything you should do to make your workplace safer.
Then record your findings. Even if you have fewer than five employees it is good practice to keep a record.
Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures in place.
An easy way to record your findings is to use the risk assessment template. This template also includes a section for your health and safety policy so you can record everything in one place. Use the copy at the back of this guide or you can find it online (www.hse.gov.uk/risk/risk-assessment-and-policy-template.doc).
Take a look at the HSE's selection of example risk assessments (www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies). They show you what a completed risk assessment might look like for your type of business. You can use these as a guide when doing your own.
The HSE are developing online risk assessment tools, which will help some businesses complete and print off their own records (www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm).
You can get more help and ideas on ways to control your risks by going to the risk management pages on the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk/risk).
Few workplaces stay the same and sooner or later you will bring in new equipment, substances, people or procedures that could lead to new hazards. It makes sense to review your risk assessment on a regular basis. If anything significant changes, check your risk assessment, update it and communicate it.
Check the premises are kept clean - a tidy workplace contributes to a safe workplace.
Check adequate lighting is in place - especially during seasonal changes.
Check the workplaces, equipment, systems and devices are maintained in an efficient state and working order - in good repair.
Check access steps are clean, even and sturdy.
Check welfare - a worker cannot clean up without warm water and soap.
Ensure staircases are safe and fitted with a handrail.
Ensure floors are in good condition and free of obstructions.
Check hand tools are in good condition, well maintained and used correctly. Never by-pass a safety guard.
Check there is a formally documented, planned preventive maintenance schedule for machinery.
Check machines are maintained in an efficient working order and in good repair.
Check machines are checked before use. Check if there is any defective machinery in operation.
Ensure machinery and plant can be cleaned safely.
Ensure power sources to machinery is properly connected, capable of being locked off, emergency stops tested.
Ensure machines are adequately guarded and fitted with appropriate safety devices. Follow manufacturer's advice.
Check the various operations are carried out safely with Manual Handling.
Check operations are carried out safely - think vehicles / plant on site. Think deliveries or collections.
Ensure raw materials and finished products are stored safely.
Check machine operations are carried out appropriately and safely - think about repetitive work. Think about hearing and respiratory protection measures.
Check the various operations are carried out safely with the use of hazardous substances - control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH). Check assessments are in place and communicated.
Check and monitor "custom and practice" to spot unsafe working.
Check materials are being handled safely.
Check materials that are dangerous, such as chemical substances and clinical wastes are identified.
Ensure these substances are correctly packaged and labelled.
Ensure there is adequate information on the safe handling of materials and substances. Material Safety, Data Safety sheets are made available.
Asbestos is still killing people. It requires specialist handling. Check if relevant and correctly identified and handled.
Check safe methods of work are established for potentially hazardous tasks and that they are followed. Safe Systems of Work.
Ensure a documented permit-to-work system is used where there is a high degree of foreseeable risk.
Check confined spaces have been identified and safe procedures established.
Check lock-off procedures are identified and followed so machines can't come to life unexpectantly.
Check people and vehicles travel on different routes and are kept separate.
Monitor - check if drivers look out for pedestrians.
Check for clear visibility on access routes.
Check people and vehicles travel at safe speeds.
Check that audible and flashing alarms are working where fitted - that they warn people of potential danger.
Check there are safe walkways provided for access to working areas.
Ensure the access roads and internal gangways are kept clear, maintained and well-lit.
Check specific provisions made for ensuring safe work at height, in confined spaces and below ground level, e.g. scaffolds, mobile access equipment, excavations and tunnels.
Ensure ladders are not damaged and used correctly. Identified and secured.
Check safe access to trucks and plant - ensure steps are designed to reduce risk of slipping and kept clean.
Check safe sheeting of trucks or trailers - check work is planned to avoid working at height.
Check competency levels by monitoring working practice - trained workers require experience to become competent.
Check the level of supervision is adequate.
Check line managers and staff are adequately trained in their duties including those of health and safety.
Check that a health and safety induction is given to staff, subcontractors and site visitors.
Check records are kept of the training carried out and any refresher training tracked and booked as required.
Check competent persons, e.g. for electrical maintenance work, clearly identified. Correctly appointed contractors.
Check operators adequately informed, instructed and trained in safe systems of work. Check staff know what they are not allowed to do.
Check that first-aiders and fire marshals adequately trained. Check emergency measures are practiced - what to do in an emergency. Test a scenario.
Ensure it is understood what equipment cannot be interfered with or altered.
Check vulnerable groups are identified and if exposed to specific hazards. Check controls are in place to reduce any risk.
Check if such persons need to receive some form of medical or health surveillance - check controls in place.
Check specific provisions are made for the supervision of vulnerable groups. Clear communication is vital and avoids misunderstanding.
No eating or drinking when Waste is present.
Check if there is a risk of occupational skin conditions developing through poor levels of personal hygiene and if yes, that controls are in place.
Check adequate welfare amenity facilities are provided. Space, storage, clean, comfortable temperature, free of flies.
Check there are adequate vermin controls in place and there is awareness of Weils disease and associated health risks.
Check the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided meet the requirements necessary for the particular hazards and risks of the workplace.
Check there is a formal procedure for selection and assessment of PPE. All users understand what they should wear. Beware fake or sub-standard items are on the market.
Check employees exposed to hazards wear their PPE correctly and all the time that they are exposed to the associated risks.
Check operators behave safely during their work and protect their health too.
Check if any unsafe practices are noted. Especially check for custom and practice "we've always done it like that" because it may be unsafe.
Check if risk assessments are being completed to control risks from hazards in the workplace.
Check if fire risk assessments include fire fighting equipment, fire drills, clear access routes, addresses flammable materials.