In general, health & safety laws apply to all businesses. As an employer, or a self-employed person, you are responsible for health & safety in your business. Health & safety laws are there to protect you, your employees and the public from workplace dangers. The approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business and the nature of your business activity. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward.
Less than 5 Employees
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or your health & safety policy. How the guide can help you, this guide makes life easier for you by providing the basic information on what you need to do in one place. It will help you get started in managing health & safety in your business.
Following this guidance is normally enough to comply with the law. You are free to take other action, except where the guidance says you must do something specific. For some work activities, there may be extra things you need to do.
As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health & safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health & safety. If you run a low-risk business, health & safety is something you can manage without needing to buy in expert help. Here you could appoint yourself as a competent person or one or more of your workers. However, if you are not confident of your ability to manage all health & safety in-house, or if you are a higher-risk business, you may need some external help or advice.
Health & Safety Policy
Write a health & safety policy for your business Describing how you will manage health & safety in your business will let your staff and others know about your commitment to health & safety. This will be your health & safety policy. It should clearly say who does what, when and how. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your health & safety policy.
The policy does not need to be complicated or time-consuming.
You must control the health & 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 taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as a risk assessment. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you whether you have covered all you need to.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. You should record your significant findings, but there is no need to record everyday risks. Keep it simple and focus on controls. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down.
The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks. For most low-risk businesses controlling risks is straightforward.
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards (things that may cause harm). Then think about the risk, which is the chance, high or low, of somebody being harmed by a hazard, and how serious the harm could be. 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 you have covered all you need to do.
Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures in place. Then record your significant findings. Any paperwork you produce should help you to manage the risks in your business and tell people what they need to know. For most people, this does not need to be a big exercise – just note the main points down about the significant risks and what you concluded. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down.
Few workplaces stay the same and sooner or later you will bring in new equipment, substances 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 and update it.