Frequently Asked Questions
Q - My workplace isn’t dangerous at all. Does this mean we can ignore ‘the rules’?
A – Sadly not. Although it’s true that some workplaces are less hazardous than others, every workplace will have its own hazards and associated risks. Sitting at a desk all day long can seem a lot less dangerous than working on an oil rig however, if the set-up of the desk and associated equipment (chair, mouse, screen etc) is wrong, this can cause serious, long-term musculoskeletal conditions, such as RSI, along with back, neck and shoulder pain.
Q – Does my employer have to discuss health & safety with us?
A – Yes. It is a legal requirement that an employer consults with his/her staff in relation to matters concerning workplace health & safety.
Q – What is a risk assessment?
A – Risk assessment is the process of identifying potential health & safety hazards and how serious the consequences might be in the hazards were realised. Basic hazards could be things like slips, trips & falls, working with hazardous substances/chemicals, manual handling, electricity and working at height etc. Additionally, longer-term risks to employees must be considered, such as stress or workplace cancers must also be assessed. A simple 5-step approach is often used to ensure risk assessments are “suitable & sufficient”.
Q – What is a health & safety policy?
A – A health & safety policy is a company’s approach towards the management of health & safety in the workplace. It can be a short document, or it can run into many pages. It is essential, however, that the policy is appropriate to the nature and scale to the company that it refers to.
Q – Does my company need a health & safety poster?
A – All companies, large or small, must display the Health & Safety Law – What you should Know poster. The new version of this poster has had to be displayed since 2014 and, should your workplace need it, more than should be displayed and the boxes on the front should be completed correctly.
Q – Does my company need to hire a H&S consultant?
A – There is no specific, legislative requirement for any business to hire a health & safety consultant, but the benefits cannot be ignored. Many businesses cannot afford a full-time H&S manager and therefore engage the services of a health & safety consultant to provide their competent H&S advice (obtaining competent H&S advice is a legal requirement). Consultancy services can be made-to-measure to provide only what is required and agreements can be in place for a finite period of time. Employing a H&S manager can mean paying someone even when they have little or nothing to do. A H&S consultant is often more qualified than an employee – and many companies have people in positions where management of health & safety is required yet the people have no qualifications at all. Speaking with a consultant from encompass safety solutions to see whether using a consultant would work for your business is free of charge. Just call 0845 017 9866 to see whether it would work for you.
Q – What do I need in place for fire safety?
A – All premises should have a fire risk assessment in place, completed by a competent person. A fire risk assessment is slightly different from a ‘normal’ risk assessment but follows a similar process whereby hazards are identified, but fire risk assessments focus on fire safety hazards, such as ignition risks (sparks, naked flames etc), fuel sources (paper, card, wood, fabrics, oils & fats etc) and the likelihood that a fire could start in the premises. There is no legal requirement to have a H&S professional complete the fire risk assessment, but it does offer increased peace of mind, as their competence is arguably higher than a company employee. They can also offer an impartial view as to the current fire arrangements within an organisation.
Q – Can employees rely on their employer to do all the work to manage workplace health & safety?
A – Whilst it is true that the majority of the responsibility for workplace health & safety rests with the employer, employees have legal responsibilities, too. The Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) places a legal duty upon employees to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts and omissions at work. Acts & omissions basically means what employees do and do not do at work. If an employee does something that contravenes H&S law or, conversely, does not do something that they should have done and H&S law is subsequently breached, they can be prosecuted. There are many examples of case law where employees have been prosecuted due to not complying with their legal responsibilities regarding health & safety at work.
Q – Can I go to jail for not complying with health & safety laws?
A – YES! There is an increasing amount of case law that sees employers and employees served custodial sentences for breaches of health & safety law. Large fines and penalties are also levied against businesses and individuals.
Q – Do employers have to provide training to employees?
A – Yes, they do. Employers must provide appropriate information, instruction and training so that employees can be deemed competent in their job role. This can range from on-to-job coaching and workshops through to courses that are held off-site, such as IOSH health & safety courses or first aid courses. Health & safety should also be covered in new staff inductions and should be regularly refreshed. The level of training will be determined by the hazards and risks identified in the workplace.