Perhaps, like many business owners, it was always your dream to be your own boss. Now you’ve managed to make that dream a reality. Naturally, the last thing you want is for one of your employees to get hurt on the job.
In an ideal world, everything would go according to plan, and you wouldn’t have to be concerned about this, but unfortunately, in the real world, every job has a certain level of risk. Even if you worked a regular office job where you spend most of your time sitting at your desk in front of a computer screen, you might still slip or trip while trying to get yourself a cup of coffee. Slips, trips and falls are actually among the most common workplace accidents. And there are jobs which are significantly more dangerous than working in an office.
The fact is that there’s always a possibility that a member of your staff will be involved in a workplace accident which can lead to injuries and major consequences for your business. To begin with, they will need to take time off to recover, so their work will need to be delegated to other employees. Since the other employees have their own tasks and responsibilities, a decline in productivity is inevitable.
If this becomes a regular occurrence, you’ll be constantly shifting more workload on other employees, which will either motivate them to take time off as well because of burnout, or they’ll quit, so your turnover rate will increase. You’ll be putting your company in a vicious cycle.
Workplace safety issues will also have a negative effect on morale because it will give your employees the impression that you don’t prioritize their well-being because you don’t value them. Nobody wants to work for a company where you don’t feel safe and appreciated.
As the employer, it’s your legal responsibility to take the necessary precaution to ensure health and safety in your company. Failure to fulfil your obligations can lead to penalties and lawsuits. Your employees have a right to claim compensation for their injuries.
We mentioned that slips, trips and falls are common occupational accidents. They can lead to serious injuries, and if it turns out that these injuries occurred because of unsecured cables or poor lighting conditions, it can lead to litigation because it was your legal responsibility to take preventative measures. Lawsuits can hurt your company’s reputation, making it much harder to attract customers and investors.
Any employer operating in the UK has to follow a set of official health and safety guidelines. Maybe a few decades ago, it wasn’t that uncommon for people to work in overcrowded factories with entirely inadequate safety protocols, but times have changed, and so has the law.
Health & Safety Legislation in the UK
The UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a key piece of legislation concerning occupational health and safety, and it essentially guarantees a person’s right to work in a safe environment. Through this act, employers are given a list of specific measures they need to take to reduce the risk of accidents, injuries and illnesses, including regulations pertaining to monitoring, training and welfare provisions. For sectors with higher risk like defence, construction, manufacturing and agriculture, regulations are stricter.
The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992 add to previous legislation by requiring employers to provide their employees with adequate lighting and ventilation, washing facilities, workspaces, and break areas.
Workers who spend more than one hour a day operating with DSE, such as computers, laptops, and smartphones, are covered by the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002. Certain guidelines need to be followed to protect DSE workers from possible health risks. These guidelines include evaluating workstation, regular breaks and free eye exams upon request.
The Management of Health and Safety Regulations (1999) emphasize the importance of risk assessment and define the employer’s legal obligations and how to meet them. Businesses with five or more employees, for example, must perform routine risk assessments and record any relevant findings.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 address the limits of working hours for employees and provide additional protection for young workers.
Adult workers can work a maximum of 48 hours per week, and if they choose to work more than this, they must confirm that they’re voluntarily opting out of this protection in writing. They also have a right to rest breaks at least every six hours of work and a daily rest period of eleven hours.
Young workers are defined as workers between the ages of 15 and 18, and they receive further protections under these regulations.
RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) requires employers to record and report certain types of incidents, injuries, or illnesses.
Construction work is expressly addressed by the 2007 Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. They include basic health and safety rules as well as a clause that states that everyone on the construction site is responsible for upholding safe work practices – contractors, designers, construction workers and clients.
The Work at Height Regulations of 2005 provide guidelines for dealing with the inherent dangers of working at height.
The COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) 2002 regulations refer to employer obligations regarding the control of substances that may be harmful to workers’ health and applies to chemicals, products that contain chemicals, dust, fumes, vapour, gases and biological agents. Since asbestos, lead, and radioactive substances are regulated separately, COSHH does not apply to them.
If a company uses hazardous substances, employers need to consider the risk their employers are exposed to and what measures could be implemented to reduce that risk – for example, changing the substance or a process. Employers also must provide their employees with training to make sure safety measures are followed, and all staff members know what to do in case of an emergency.
The PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) 1998 cover the legal obligations of businesses that own and use work equipment. According to these regulations, employers must make sure that the equipment is safe to use, appropriate for the intended purpose and properly mentioned. They must also provide their employees with proper training.