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A practical guide to health and safety for startups

When you start up a new business, there is a lot to consider and it's easy to understand how a formality like health and safety might slip through the cracks.

While it might seem like a bureaucratic necessity, making sure you have a clear health and safety policy from the beginning is essential. Accidents happen, and not being prepared could be bad for your employees and your business, particularly if legal action takes place.

This guide covers the basics of health and safety, providing a practical template for new startup business owners.

Know the law

Before even considering implementing your own policies, it is vital to understand your legal requirement as an employer. Businesses of all sizes, even sole traders, have a legal obligation to provide ‘adequate and appropriate’ equipment, facilities and personnel to administer first-aid.

So what does this mean? ‘Adequate and appropriate’ are highly subjective because first aid provisions will vary between workplaces. The health and safety needs of a small office will be vastly different to a construction company.

After reading up on what is required legally, the next step is to consider the health and safety needs of your workplace.

Assess your H&S needs

As an employer you need to consider the physical environment you work in. Are there any potentially hazardous conditions in your workspace, or any obvious issues that may cause injury? Here are a few key things to look out for:

  • Active machinery
  • Hazardous materials and chemicals
  • Uneven floors and walkways
  • Electrical hazards
  • Vehicle traffic on-site (e.g. forklifts)
  • Sharp or heavy objects or tools
  • Slipping or tripping hazards

Think about all aspects of your workplace, and assess what you need to have in place both to avoid injuries taking place, and to administer first aid if needed. You should also consider the size and nature of your workforce when assessing your health and safety needs.

Are there differing shift patterns you need to consider, and do you have staff experienced in first aid to cover holidays? There’s a lot to consider, but fortunately there are resources available to help you.

Get equipped

Having fully assessed your health and safety needs, you can put policies in place, and critically, get yourself equipped with appropriate first-aid kits - you must have a fully-stocked and accessible first-aid kit as a minimum requirement.

The equipment you stock first-aid kits with is dependent upon the needs of your business, although there are certain basics you should be equipped with, such as plasters, bandages, wound dressings, and disposable gloves.

A good health and safety policy, however, is more than just equipment - you also need to have the right people in the know.

Provide training

Depending upon how hazardous you’ve assessed your workplace to be, you need to consider whether to train yourself or appropriate staff as first-aiders. If you do decide there is sufficient hazard in your business to warrant a trained first-aider, there are various training courses you can choose.

Whatever policies, equipment and training you select, understanding the basics of health and safety should make your new workplace a more secure and enjoyable environment to work in.

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