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Four things employers get wrong about Health and Safety

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), each year around 170 people are fatally injured at work and more than 100,000 receive serious injuries.

Many of these injuries could be avoided or mitigated through proper Health and Safety practice in the workplace.

But it isn’t just about the big injuries. Many small or repetitive injuries go unnoticed in the work place each year, leading to bigger health problems.

So what are the things that employers commonly get wrong when it comes to Health and Safety at work?

Inadequate or No Training

Training is essential for most work-related tasks, in particular skilled tasks or those that use specialist equipment.

Whether it’s using a special chair for back support or operating heavy machinery, making sure employees have the right training means everyone is as safe as possible.

The Health and Safety Executive recently reported an incident where a maintenance engineer’s hand was crushed  by heavy machinery. After investigation, the employer was found to have “failed to provide workers with adequate information, instruction and training.”

The company was fined £10,000, with £940.50 for costs, for breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Risk Assessments Out-of-Date

A risk assessment is a working document, not just a one off piece of paper. No matter how big or small your business, you must have one. And if it isn’t up to date, it’s no good.

Your risk assessments should be regularly reviewed to make sure new or evolving risks are properly mitigated. It isn’t designed to prevent injury or harm entirely, and depending on the nature of your business, it’s possible there are a lot of risks.

By keeping your paperwork up to date, you are showing your workers where the risks lie and making sure you have considered everything possible to reduce the risk of harm or injury.

Lack of Policy Documentation

Without a policy document, your employees don’t have guidelines on how to be healthy and safe in your workplace.

It’s an important document that outlines the commitment of your company to ensure the safety of those in it – employees, contractors, visitors and volunteers.

Importantly, it’s also a document that you can share with your employees to make sure they fully understand their role and commitment to Health and Safety.

Without a Health and Safety Policy, you could be open to prosecution for failing to adequately provide your employees with a clear framework for staying safe.

Poor Control Measures

Control measures differ based on your industry, but if they don’t meet the demands of the working environment, they aren’t fit for purpose.

You may have identified that working with a naked flame means there’s a risk of fire, but without proper fire-fighting equipment, training, and personal protective equipment (PPE) you don’t have the capacity to control the risk.

Don’t forget the little things. For example, many people fall ill at work through unhygienic working conditions, so what control measures do you have in place to control the risk of an infection or virus? Who is responsible for cleaning, and how often?

Author: Neil Maycock on behalf of DFR Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to DFR Solicitors directly.

Published on 22nd April 2015
(Last updated 7th May 2021)