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Health & Safety Policy for Small Businesses – All you need to know

As a small business owner, you will wear many hats, balancing varying responsibilities and demands. Managing health and safety arrangements does not have to be complicated, but should always be a priority, as the cost of breaching health and safety could be severe. Here is everything you need to know about health & safety policy for small businesses and the legal obligations you have as an employer.

What H&S obligations does a small business owner have?

As soon as you become an employer you must get Employer’s Liability insurance from an authorised insurer covering you for a minimum of £5 million.

As a business owner, you have a number of H&S obligations which include appointing a competent person(s) to manage the day to day H&S of the business and identify any risks and hazards within the place of work. Identifying risks extends to employees’ home office space and homeworking risk assessments should also be carried out (usually done by the employee themselves).

It is important that workers know their responsibilities and employers ensure that their duties are communicated to them and consult with workers about health and safety within the workplace. In addition, training and instruction should be given so that workers can carry out their roles safely.

Welfare facilities, such as toilets, should be made available to workers as well as provisions for first aid and accident/incident reporting. All businesses must report serious accidents and incidents to HSE under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations). More information about RIDDOR is available here.

Depending on the size of your business you may legally be required to prepare a health and safety policy.

How many employees do you need to have a health and safety policy?

If you employ 5 or more employees you will, by law, be required to have a written and readily available H&S policy.

It would be best practice even if not legally required, to have a policy for less than 5 employees.

What is the legal requirement for a health and safety policy?

A small business health and safety policy will require a statement of intent, responsibilities for health and safety and arrangements for health and safety.

Statement of Intent: This is what the business aims to do and its objectives for managing health and safety; signed by the most senior person in the business indicating that the policy commitment comes from the highest level.

Responsibilities for health and safety: All managers and workers will have a part to play in managing health and safety and this section of the policy will break down these responsibilities usually by the Managing Director/Owner, Senior Managers, Employees, Competent persons and specialist practitioners/consultants. An organisation chart is usually useful to include here to show lines of responsibility, accountability, and communication.

Many businesses will have an appointed competent person to handle the day to day management of H&S. Depending on the nature of the business some owners may appoint a specialist H&S role or combine with HR, in high-risk industries, for example, this may be more common.

It is perfectly ok to delegate responsibilities and assign tasks to different people including employees who would be responsible for reporting accidents and near misses but ultimately, the overall accountability lays with the owner/MD of the business.

Arrangements for health and safety: Usually the largest section in the policy because this is where the general arrangements that exist to manage health and safety are documented including any specific arrangements to deal with particular risks. The systems and procedures for managing specific risk (examples include lone working, noise exposure, hazardous substances, fire safety and housekeeping), carrying out risk assessments, training, the process for consultation and evacuation procedures will all be found in this section.

Does a self-employed person need a health and safety policy?

From 1 October 2015, it was decided that if you are self-employed and your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then health and safety law will not apply to you and therefore you do not need a health and safety policy.

In a nutshell:

  • Have you got Employers Liability insurance?
  • If you employ more than 5 people, do you have a written health and safety policy?
  • Does your health and safety policy cover 3 key areas – Statement of intent, responsibilities for H&S and arrangements of H&S?
  • If you are self-employed, ask yourself if your work activity poses any potential H&S risk to other workers or the public.

If you require additional health and safety advice for small businesses or need support on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

Copyright Clover HR

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