Health and Safety made simple

Health and safety does not have to be complicated, costly or time-consuming - it is easier than you think.

Here we have some basic information on what employers must do to make sure their business complies with health and safety laws.

In general, health and safety laws apply to all businesses (employer and self-employed). Health and safety laws are there to protect you, your employees and the public from workplace dangers.

The approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business and the nature of your business activity. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward. This page will take you through the steps that will help you make sure you have done what you need to do.

Following this guidance is normally enough to comply with the law. You are free to take other actions, except where the guidance says you must do something specific. For some work activities there may be extra things you need to do. 

Decide who will help you with your duties

As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.

If you run a low-risk business, health and safety is something you can manage without needing to buy in expert help. Here you could appoint yourself as a competent person or one or more of your workers.

More detailed information can be found:

Write a health and safety policy for your business

Describing how you will manage health and safety in your business will let your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety. This will be your health and safety policy. It should clearly say who does what, when and how. If you have fewer than five employees you don't have to write down your health and safety policy.

A policy will only be effective if you and your staff follow it and review it regularly.

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Control the risks in your business

As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace.

To do this you need to think about what, in your business, might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. this is known as a risk assessment and will let you know whether you have covered all you need to.

A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.

The law does not expect you to remove all risks, but to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Your risk assessment need only include what you could reasonably be expected to know - you are not expected to anticipate unforseeable risks.

A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and look for any hazards (things that may cause harm).

Concentrate on the real risks - those that are most likely to cause harm. Ask your employees what they think as they may notice hazards that are not obvious to you and may have some good ideas on how to control the risks.

Don't forget to consider everyone who could be harmed, some workers may have particular requirements, e.g. new and young workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities. Take members of the public into account and if you share premises with another business talk to each other and work together.

Once you have identified the risks and what you need to do to control them, you should put the appropriate measures in place. Then record your findings. Any paperwork you produce should help you to manage the risks in your business and tell people what they need to know. For most people this does not need to be a big exercise - just note the main points about the significant risks and what you concluded. If you have fewer than five employees you don't have to write anything down.

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Consult your employees

You have to consult all of your employees on health and safety matters. This does not need to be complicated. You can do this by listening and talking to them about:

  • health and safety and the work they do
  • how risks are controlled
  • the best ways of providing information and training

Consultation is a two-way process, allowing staff to raise concerns and influence decisions on the management of health and safety. Your employees are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace and involving them in making decisions shows them that you take their health and safety seriously.

In a very small business, you might choose to consult your employees directly. Alternatively, you might consult through a health and safety representative, chosen by your employees or selected by the trade union. As an employer, you cannot decide who will be the representative.

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Provide training and information

Everyone who works for you needs to know how to work safely and without risks to health. You must provide clear instructions and information, and adequate training, for your employees.

Consider how much training is necessary. A proportionate approach is needed, e.g. a low-risk business would not need lengthly technical training. Providing simple information or instructions is likely to be sufficient.

Don't forget contractors and self-employed people who may be working for you and make sure everyone has the right level of information.

When you provide training, ask your employees what they think about it to make sure it's relevant and effective. Keeping training records will help you to identify when refresher training might be needed.

Health and safety training should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees. The information and training you provide should be in a form that is easy to understand. Everyone working for you should know what they are expected to do.

Remember that staff will need extra training if you get new equipment or if working practices change.

You must also display the Health and Safety Law Poster, or provide each worker with a copy of the equivalent pocket card. You must display the poster where your workers can easily read it.

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Provide the right workplace facitilities

You must provide adequate facilities for everyone in your workplace, including those with a disability.

Welfare facilities include:

  • toilets and wash-hand basins, with soap and drying facilities
  • drinking water
  • a place to store clothing (and somewhere to change clothes if special clothing is work for work)
  • somewhere to rest and eat meals.

Health issues include:

  • good ventilitation
  • reasonable working temperature (usually at least 16 degrees, or 13 degrees for strenuous work)
  • lighting suitable for the work being carried out
  • enough space, suitable workstations and seating
  • a clean workplace with adequate waste containers.

Safety issues include:

  • properly maintain premises and work equipment
  • keep floor and traffic routes clear
  • have windows that can be opened and cleaned safely
  • make sure that any transparent doors or walls are protected or made of safety material.

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Make arrangements for first aid, accidents and ill health

First Aid

You are responsible for making sure that your employees receive immediate attention if they are taken ill or injured at work. Accidents and illness can happen at any time and first aid can save lives and prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones.

As a minimum, you must have:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements
  • information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements

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Accidents and ill health

Under health and safety law, you must report and keep a record of certain injuries, incidents and cases of work-related disease.

Keeping records will help you to identify patterns of accidents and injuries, and willhelp when completing your risk assessment. Your insurance company may also want to see your records if there is a work-related claim.

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Get insurance for your business

If your business has employees you will probably need employers' liability insurance.

If an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result of the work they do for you, they can claim compensation from you.

Meeting your health and safety duties is easier than you think. As long as you have taken reasonable steps to prevent accidents or harm to your employees, you shouldn't have to pay compensation. However, if a court finds you are liable, employers' liability insurance will help you to pay any compensation for your employees' injuries or illness.

Only a few businesses are not required to have employers' liability insurance. If you have no employees, or are a family business and all employees are closely related to you, you may not need it.

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Use the Management Standards

HSE's Management Standards represent a set of conditions that, if managed correctly can reflect a high level of organisational performance and job satisfaction. However, if they are not managed correctly can lead to lower productivity and can cause or exacerbate work-related stress.

The Management Standards are:

Demands - this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.

Control - how much say the person has in the way they do their work.

Support - this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.

Relationships - this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

Role - whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

Change - how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.

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Get competent advice

As an employer, you must appoint someone competent to help you meet your health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.

You could appoint (one or a combination of):

  • yourself
  • one or more of your workers
  • someone from outside your business

You probably manage most aspects of your business yourself, or with the help of your staff. But if you are not confident of your ability to manage ill health and safety in-house, you may need some external help or advice.

There are a number of different sources of advice including:

  • trade associations
  • safety groups
  • trade unions
  • consultants
  • local councils
  • health and safety training providers
  • health and safety equipment suppliers

Deciding what help you need is very important. Unless you are clear about what you want, you probably won't get the help you need. Try to make sure you get a good follow-up service and are able to get further advice on any issues that arise from implementing their recommendations.

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