Health and Safety for Small Businesses
In business, it’s essential that employers provide a safe working environment for employees, and there are some general health and safety precautions which every business should take, as well as specific ones based on circumstances and sector.
Any business premises must have appropriate fire escapes by law, and staff should be in no doubt as to what actions to take in the event of a fire, including how to exit the building and the location of the fire assembly point. Potential fire hazards should be identified in risk assessments, and appropriate steps should be taken to mitigate the chances of a fire starting in the first instance.
Fire safety equipment should be available, including extinguishers, blankets and sprinklers. Staff should be made well aware of these facilities and should also be trained on how to use them.
Image used under a creative commons license courtesy of Law_keven on Flickr
First aiders should be appointed to take necessary actions in the event of a medical emergency, even if this simply means making the situation safe and contacting the ambulance services. A first aid kit should be provided for staff, with relevant equipment and supplies. It’s essential that all staff know where the first aid kit is located in the event of an emergency. If it’s a large business then several first aid kits should be provided.
Large employers can take this even further by providing automated external defibrillators, so that those suffering from life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and other heart problems can have their sinus rhythm restored using this amazing piece of equipment. These automated defibrillators are designed in such a way that they can be used by those with little or no training at all.
Electrical equipment should be tested regularly. PAT testing is one way of doing this. Once items are tested they are given a pass or fail sticker. While there are no specific laws about how regularly electrical items should be PAT tested, it’s generally recommended once a year. This is not demanded by the Health and Safety Executive, although they do recommend regular visual checks of electrical devices for “obvious signs of damage” and “simple tests by a competent member of staff”.
Employers are legally obliged to report certain accidents and incidents, in order to further protect employees. Serious work-related accidents, diseases and incidents should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive. This could include minor injuries like broken bones, dangerous incidents should as collapsing structures or leaking gas and any other injury which prevents an employee doing their normal work for three days or more.
All injuries should be recorded in an ‘accident book’. This is mainly for the benefit of employees in the event of claiming compensation or negotiating time off and sick pay, but it can also be used to help employers record their accidents with Health and Safety Executive. These incidents can be reported online through their website. Recording these incidents is also a great way of businesses working out what they are doing wrong and taking the appropriate steps to rectify the situation.
In some jobs there are always going to be hazardous pieces of equipment or other things which pose potential security risks. If the risks can’t be eliminated completely then it’s all about mitigation. Warning signs can help employees to stay vigilant and aware, while additional safety training could reduce the chances of somebody using an appliance or piece of equipment in an unsafe way. Typically this can include lifting, sitting at a desk, setting up a desk chair and monitor and using keyboard and mouse pads.