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How to assess health and safety in your workplace

For business owners of any size, there is always plenty on your plate, with legal obligations like health and safety often feeling like a tedious formality.

While this may seem like a box ticking exercise, ensuring your business has a clear health and safety policy is essential. The reality is that accidents happen in the workplace, and not having adequate systems and facilities in place could leave you open to legal recourse, while also creating an unsafe working environment.

Within this guide, we consider how to assess health and safety in your workplace, and what you need to do as a business owner.

Understand your legal responsibilities

For anyone in a position of authority, it is vital to understand their legal requirements with regards to health and safety. Businesses of all sizes, even sole traders, are legally obliged to provide ‘adequate and appropriate’ equipment, facilities and personnel to administer first-aid on-site.

But what exactly does this mean? ‘Adequate and appropriate’ are intentionally ambiguous terms, because specific first aid provisions will vary between workplaces. The health and safety needs of an office-based startup will be vastly different to that of a larger warehouse.  

In addition to understanding the law around health and safety, conducting a full assessment of your own business is essential.

Evaluate the risks in your workplace

As an employer it is vital to assess the physical environment you work in. Consider if there are any potentially hazardous conditions in your place of work, or any tools or materials that may cause injury. Here are a few key things to start with:

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

Thoroughly evaluate all aspects of your workplace, and assess what you can do to minimise risk, and administer first-aid if required. As part of this health and safety assessment, you also need to think about the size of your workforce, and the nature of their jobs.

For example, are there differing shift patterns or job roles, and do you have enough experienced, first-aid trained staff to cover holidays? There’s a lot to consider when assessing your workplace, but fortunately there are resources available to help.

Check you have the right equipment

After fully assessing the health and safety needs of your business, it is essential to then check if you have the right tools to do the job. As a minimum requirement, all businesses must have a fully-stocked and accessible first-aid kit on-site.

The equipment within your first-aid kit (or kits) is dependent upon the needs you have identified during your workplace assessment. There are, however, certain basics that should be in any first-aid kit, including sterilised plasters, bandages, and wound dressings, as well as disposable gloves.

Assessing health and safety in your workplace is a rigorous process, but making sure you have everything in place is essential to ensuring a secure and enjoyable working environment.

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