People Come First! Promoting a Positive Health & Safety Culture in the Workplace

Having a robust health and safety policy is considered the norm in any workplace in the UK. Employees must be kept safe regardless of whether they’re working in an office or on a project site. It’s the employer’s legal duty to ensure that potential risks are assessed, monitored and controlled.

Making health and safety a priority is also good for morale and productivity. Working in an unsafe environment leads to stress and accidents – both major causes of absenteeism and staff turnover. At the same time, these unscheduled absences mean that higher workloads get pushed on the remaining staff. A higher workload means more pressure, more stress and greater risk of accidents, resulting in even more absences. It becomes a vicious cycle.

Investing in effective health and safety programs will boost your long-term profitability. Working in an environment where they feel respected and valued will motivate your employees to be more efficient.

But an effective health and safety program requires more than printing a series of guidelines on paper and handing them out to the staff. Clear, consistent communication is key to employee engagement. You want to make sure that they understand the guidelines and why they should follow them. Poorly informed or unengaged workers can pose a risk not only to themselves but to your company as a whole. It can lead to sanctions, costly lawsuits and damage to your reputation.

If someone gets injured on the job because you, as their employer, didn’t take the necessary precaution to prevent it, you are opening yourself up to investigations and legal action against your company. That employee has a right to compensation for their injuries and any negative consequences associated with those injuries. You can learn more specific information about this process at HowMuchCompensation.co.uk.

The crowded working conditions, dangerous equipment and flawed procedures from the past are clear evidence of the lack of concern over workers’ wellbeing and serve as a reminder of why things had to change.

Fortunately, these practices are confined to a bygone era. Thanks to major policy and implementation reforms, working conditions have improved dramatically.

Health and Safety Legislation

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 lays the foundation for health and safety legislation in the UK. It protects workers’ right to an environment where the employer has a legal obligation to keep occupational risk under control.

Employers have a set of clear measures they need to take in order to prevent accidents, injuries and illnesses. Their responsibility extends beyond direct employees and includes any indirect staff members while they’re on the premises. It includes regulations regarding training and oversight over the working environments. Disregarding these regulations leads to legal sanctions.

For sectors with greater risks like agriculture, construction, defence and forestry, regulations are more stringent.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 build upon previous legislation and include guidelines on appropriate lighting and ventilation, washing facilities, workspace and break areas.

The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992 – amended in 2002 – address the safe use of DSE such as computers, laptops and smartphones. The employers have to respect the guidelines meant to protect DSE users from associated health risks. These guidelines include assessment of DSE workstations, ancillary equipment, regular breaks and free eye examination upon request from the employees.

The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 emphasizes the importance of risk assessment, defines the employer’s legal responsibilities and provides guidelines for carrying out these responsibilities.

Certain types of occupational accidents, injuries and illnesses such as fatal and non-fatal accidents, near misses, accidents involving gasses and accidents resulting in employee absences longer than seven days need to be reported under RIDDOR – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 comprise health and safety regulations explicitly written for the construction industry, while the Work at Height Regulations 2005 address the inherent dangers of working at height and how to mitigate them.

Common Safety Hazards

Some industries present higher risks than others which means they require more stringent health and safety protocols. In this section, we will go through some of the most common health and safety risks.

Working at height

Working at height presents a significant risk and is among the leading causes of fatal accidents in the UK. To reduce this risk, employers need to perform safety checks, provide workers with personal protective equipment and use fail protection as per the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Chemicals

Chemical warning symbols should be used to warn employees of the risks involved. They should be provided with appropriate safety equipment, receive training, and be given access to COSHH Sheets – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, containing information about the chemical products and how to work with them safely.

Electrical hazards

All electrical items on the premises have to go through portable appliance testing (PAT) to minimize the risk of electrical hazards.

Fire safety

Companies have to provide their staff with fire safety training and conduct regular fire drills. During these fire drills, staff members have to be shown the routes and meeting points they need to be aware of in case of a fire. Emergency exits must be well-lit and clearly visible.

Poor housekeeping

Slips, trips and falls are very common causes of injuries in any sort of working environment. Poor housekeeping refers to anything that might increase the risk for this kind of accidents, like obstructions on the walkways, wet floors or loose objects that can puncture through shoes. Poor housekeeping can also be problematic in terms of fire safety by preventing employees from getting to the emergency exits, for example.

The Importance of Health and Safety Procedures

Healthy and safety procedures reduce the risk of occupational accidents, injuries and illnesses. Inadequate working conditions are detrimental not only to workers’ health but also to morale, engagement and productivity. From the point of view of the employer, these procedures protect them from costly fines and litigation.

Although enforcing these regulations requires financial investment, failure to do so can be much more expensive. The missed workdays and employee turnover can hurt a company’s bottom line as well as its reputation.

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