How to improve workplace health and safety
When thinking about health and safety in your workplace, you are probably conscious of the need to keep safe by avoiding slips and trips, using electrical equipment properly, and generally making sure that your workplace is free from other hazards. All these are important aspects of protecting yourself and your workforce, particularly if you are in charge of a start-up enterprise that is independent and ground-breaking in your chosen field. When you’re going it alone as an entrepreneur, it can help to have some pointers to best practice. Work through this checklist to make sure that you’re on top of some of the key issues.
Slips, trips and falls
Pay attention to floor surfaces to avoid slips and trips at work. This means that you should ensure that all areas are clean and dry, as well as free from obstacles, including trailing electrical and computer cables. It doesn’t matter whether you work from home or from an alternative base, you need to be sure that there are no obstructions on your premises that might hamper easy and safe access. This applies to areas used by staff and also visitors. Be aware that wet floors can be hazardous, and make sure that warnings are clearly visible during cleaning, for example.
Being mindful of fire hazards is essential, particularly if you work with unstable chemicals or electrical equipment as in these circumstances accidents can be extremely dangerous. Always make sure that you have appropriate firefighting equipment to hand and the right materials available so that any spillages or other incidents can be dealt with quickly and easily. Doing a risk assessment on a regular basis is a good way of making sure that your workplace is prepared for any emergencies of this kind. Also, regularly inspect any firefighting equipment that you have installed to check that it is in good working order.
If you do have a health and safety problem, you need to be sure that you can resolve it promptly. For example, after a fire or a break-in, you may have damaged windows or doors, and it’s important to secure these as soon as possible to protect your workforce and deter would-be intruders. Whether you need new glazing for windows or emergency door repairs, make sure that you commission the work as soon as possible from a reliable source. Delaying may mean that your workplace is exposed to further risk.
As your workforce grows, it’s important to make sure that your staff members are fully trained in first aid. Training courses are freely available from St John Ambulance, and most can be tailored to meet your requirements. There are also training sessions that deal with general health and safety issues; these are useful refresher courses if you are an entrepreneur who is keen to get things right from the start.
Moving and handling
Some jobs involve the handling and moving of heavy goods, and in order to avoid injury or long-term back pain, it’s vital that your employees are fully trained to do this safely. Remember that in certain professions, such as in healthcare roles, workers may be moving people, and this also requires adequate training so that patients and healthcare workers stay safe. If you have employees who are first aiders, they will also benefit from this type of training.
Prevention is essential when it comes to maximum health and safety in your workplace, so make sure that your policies build in basic health and safety training programmes for all members of staff, without exception. These programmes should include regular inspections of premises and equipment, fire drills, and a plan for evacuating the building safely. Pay particular attention if your business is occupying more than one floor as negotiating stairs during an emergency can be tricky. If you have disabled employees, make sure that you and your members of staff know how to help them to safety in the event of an alert, should this be necessary.
You may not recognise data protection as a potential workplace risk; however, these days, the threat of stolen data is very real. As customer feedback is a useful tool to inform your business model, you should take steps to make sure that your IT systems are protected so that any sensitive data relating to members of staff, customers or the business itself is secure at all times. There are several methods of encrypting data to add an extra layer of protection.
In some professions, safety equipment and special clothing are essential. Whether members of staff are involved in construction, handling chemicals, electrics or cleaning, for instance, they should be properly equipped and encouraged to always carry out tasks wearing the correct clothing. This applies even when they are due to undertake a relatively quick piece of work. As a responsible employer, you should make sure that safety helmets, gloves and other relevant items are always worn when they are needed, and periodically checked for wear and tear or other damage.
Visual prompts are a good way of reinforcing your workplace health and safety rules. Whether you need to remind employees to wear safety gear or warn them about dangerous areas, you’ll find a sign to suit. Fire exits and assembly points should be marked clearly so that employees know where to go in the event of an emergency. Portable signs should be used during cleaning and maintenance operations. Also, check audible alerts such as smoke alarms and other sirens. Test these regularly so that any faults can be rectified immediately.
Health and safety in the workplace is essentially focused on common sense and good advance planning. To fail to prepare, after all, is to prepare to fail. Why not review your health and safety policies and plans today, just to make sure that they’re up to scratch? If you find that there’s something that you haven’t previously thought much about, count it as a success, knowing that you’ve closed a gap and improved standards.