Workplace health and safety is incredibly important. Employers have a key role to play in protecting the wellbeing of their workers, and doing so can have all manner of benefits, including reducing sickness absences, improving a company's overall productivity, as well as generally boosting morale and creating a good working environment.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive, the UK government body responsible for health and safety in the workplace, show that workplace injuries cost the UK economy £14.9 billion between 2015 and 2016, with more than 600,000 injuries reported in total during this period. In 2017/18, more than 1.4 million people in the UK were off work at some point as a result of workplace-related illness or injury.
It’s not just the lost time that’s a factor of course. Businesses have a legal responsibility to their employees - not just a moral one. If your business is found to have very poor standards of health and safety, then you could find yourself being prosecuted, which can mean significant fines, and in some cases, even prison time.
The scale of these issues is clear, which is why good health and safety policy is so important. Companies cannot afford the loss of productivity and earnings in the current climate, nor can they afford to fall foul of the law. Proper training and policy implementation can be put together following training, such as Virtual College's e-learning health and safety courses, but there are a few things that anyone should bear in mind. Let’s take a look.
The first step to improving health and safety in the workplace is to carry out an inspection, with the help of a registered health and safety officer. They will be experienced in identifying any hazards with your workplace layout and will be trained to point out any pitfalls you might have overlooked yourself. This is all part of conducting a sound risk assessment. What hazards are present in the workplace? What type of accident might they cause?
After the inspection has been conducted, you need to devise a health and safety plan to control and eliminate hazards in your workplace, informed by the risk assessment. Where you have found a hazard, you should first endeavour to reduce the risk of this hazard occurring in the first place, and then take steps to mitigate any potential accidents.
It’s important to ensure that you’re involving employees every step of the way, to make sure everyone knows what is required of them. For example, let staff know where the communal first aid kit is kept and make everyone aware of your fire drill procedure. Even little things like this will all contribute towards a safer work environment.
It's also essential to provide your employees with health and safety training, especially in labour-intensive roles. Manual handling injuries are hugely common for example, and are one of the leading causes of time off through injury. Fortunately, most injuries can actually be prevented through good manual handling know-how.
Training is important in an office environment too however. Manual handling can be important, as can first aid and fire safety training.
Ideally, health and safety training should take place within working hours. It can be conducted via the Virtual College Learning Management System, allowing employees to pick it up when they have a spare moment, with their progress being tracked as they go.
After training has been carried out, hold regular meetings with staff, in which they can voice their opinions or raise any concerns about workplace standards. Health and safety representatives are a common presence in larger businesses and those where accidents are more likely. You should encourage the appointing of such a member of staff, as they can be a major asset in identifying health and safety issues and resolving them before they become a major problem.
Feedback on your health and safety training should also be welcomed so you can see where it might benefit from improvements.
Keeping proper health and safety records is extremely important. You should make a note of the dates that inspections and training take place, as well as when any incidents occur, plus follow-up actions. Looking over these records regularly will help you to identify trends in your workplace conditions so you can take action to rectify issues where needed.
Your data will also contribute towards the Health and Safety Executive's annual workplace health and safety data, which is in turn used to create information that’s useful to all businesses.
Virtual College is proud to be a leader in delivering e-learning courses, and health and safety is one of our specialisms. If you’re looking to improve the health and safety knowledge within your business, then consider taking, or having your employees take, one of our health and safety in the workplace courses. Click here to see all of our courses, which range from fire safety, to manual handling and more.