Health and Safety in the Office: The Rules and Regulations Industry News 8th April 2015 | By Liberty Image via: Wikimedia Commons under CC 3.0 Your office should be a happy, healthy and safe place for you and your employees to work in. You don’t want employees dreading coming into work on a Monday morning because of a leaky roof, lack of heating or a shabby working environment, do you? And what happens if there is an emergency?! There are a number of rules and regulations that SMEs should abide by in order to protect the company and its staff. Here’s an outline of the essential health and safety implementations you need to make: The Key Statistics Before you take a look at health and safety legislation it’s important to know the facts. Here are a few key figures from the Health and Safety Executive for the UK during the year 2013/2014. • 28.2million working days were lost due to work-related illnesses or injuries • 1.2million people had a work-related illness • 133 workers were killed at work • £14.2billion – the cost of injuries or ill health caused by working conditions But don’t let the figures scare you. These accidents and illnesses can easily be avoided by implementing and maintaining a few simple health and safety procedures. Health and Safety Basics Appoint a Health and Safety Officer Whether you take on the role yourself or you delegate to an employee, every company should have a designated health and safety officer. This person is responsible for the safety of the entire staff and must arrange fire drills, put up posters and so on. An officer should be someone you trust as the position holds a lotof responsibility. There are health and safety training courses available for officers who require training, and all other staff should receive a briefing about the essential need-to-know info, such as where fire exits are, when they first start with the company. Write a Health and Safety Policy If you have five or more employees you must write out a formal health and safety policy. This should describe how issues will be dealt with, who is responsible for what duties andwhen certain checks should be made. This does not have to be overly complicated. You can find simple template policies online for help. Complete a Risk Assessment In order to assess any health and safety issues you must at first recognise these problems. You can do this by completing a risk assessment. Any significant, recognised risks in your office should be noted down, but there’s no need to do so for every day, smaller issues. And if you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down at all! There are no laws stating that you have to remove every risk, but there is the requirement to place appropriate measures in place to control these to a reasonable extent. You are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks either. Speak to Your Staff Take a few minutes to speak to your staff to find out if they have any health and safety issues or they have spotted a risk elsewhere in the office. After all, multiple pairs of eyes are better than one. Provide the Correct Working Environment All employers must provide the following for their staff’s welfare: • Toilets, wash basins, soap and a way to dry their hands • Somewhere to store clothing, such as a coat rack or lockers • Drinking water • A place to rest, relax on breaks and to eat a meal • Adequate air ventilation • A reasonable room temperature (above 16°C) • Adequate lighting • Enough seats, tables and room space • A clean space with enough bins • A properly maintained premises • Clear traffic routes • Windows that can be opened • Safety glass installed in doors, partition walls or internal windows First Aid The minimum requirements a business must have include a stocked first-aid box, a trained first aider and information on these arrangements. It is also important to keep a record of injuries, incidents and illnesses. These can help when completing your risk assessment and may be necessary if an employee puts in a work-related injury claim. Put Up Health and Safety Posters No matter how many staff you employ you must clearly display the health and safety law poster. Or if this is not possible, you should provide each member with a pocket-sized version for their own keeping. Get Insurance You’d cover your building and its contents so why not your most valuable asset – your staff? Research employers’ liability insurance; this should protect you should a staff member want to make a claim against your company. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Do you feel more in-the-know now regarding health and safety for your SME? If you are setting up a small to medium business take a look at our other posts on setting up a new venture, VAT and employee rights. And if you want to talk about financing your new venture, just give us a call.