By: Simon B
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Health and Safety in the Workplace
The law states that your employer must take measures to reduce any risks or dangers in your workplace that could cause harm to employees, customers or visitors alike. They should ensure that employees are made aware of the working practices they should follow to minimise the chance of injuring themselves or others.
You also have some responsibility for ensuring health and safety in the workplace. You should always follow any safety procedures or make use of any protective equipment specified by your employer. You should also report any hazards you may notice and avoid working in a way that puts yourself or others at risk. If any accidents do happen, you must follow your employer’s reporting procedures.
In order to make sure the workplace is safe, your employer is expected to carry out a risk assessment. This involves noting down any potential hazards in the workplace and figuring out the best way to reduce or remove the risk they pose.
Risks can be all sorts of things, not all of them obvious. Your employer should not just consider the potential danger of toxic chemicals or heavy machinery, but also look into the way employees work and listen to any concerns they have.
When carrying out a risk assessment, your employer should do the following:
- find and note any potential dangers
- establish the potential for harm, and who is at risk
- look at the protective measures in place, considering whether they work effectively or if improvements or new measures are required
Your employer should keep records of risk assessments and review the situation if significant changes take place which may mean that new risks develop.
Accidents at work
If you are involved in an accident at work, you will need to:
- record details in your employer’s accident book
- make sure that your employer tells the HSE or local authority about it, if necessary
- let your employer know about any new risks that may have resulted from the accident, or if the cause of the accident has not been dealt with
- inform your workplace safety representative if you have one
Your employer should inform the HSE in cases where a work-related accident:
- causes someone’s death
- causes major injuries
- leads to the victim being off work or unable to do their normal job for more than seven days following the injury
- causes injuries to a member of the public (i.e. not a worker) that lead to them being taken to hospital for treatment
Employers are also required to report what is known as ‘dangerous occurrences’, the HSE’s definition of which includes a variety of incidents in which people could have been badly injured, even if they weren’t. They must also report certain occupational diseases in their workers if such conditions could have been caused or worsened by their jobs. Employers within the gas industry must also report incidents in which people are injured, killed or knocked unconscious in an incident involving said gas.
All employers must ensure that immediate medical help is available if anyone should be injured or becomes ill at work. They are required to do this by making certain first aid provisions available for use if someone suffers a minor injury, or while medical professionals are en route if a more serious incident occurs.
At the very least, employers must supply:
- a first aid box
- an on-site individual trained in first aid
- relevant information on the first aid provisions available
The first aid box should, at a minimum, contain:
- a leaflet giving general first aid guidance
- 20 assorted plasters
- 4 sterile triangular bandages
- a pair of disposable gloves
- 6 safety pins
- 6 medium sterile dressings
- 2 large sterile dressings
- 2 sterile eye pads
The first-aider does not necessarily have to be fully trained, but there must be someone in charge of giving medical help in the workplace. If they are absent, then someone must take the lead in arranging for medical assistance if necessary.
All employers should also carry out a first aid assessment to decide what may be needed in their particular workplace. If the employees in a particular workplace regularly carry out potentially hazardous tasks, an assessment could show that more specialised medical equipment and a fully-trained first-aider should be located on-site, for example.