Isn't health and safety just a load of red tape?

Just look at the statistics in 2013/14:

  • 1.2 million people were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work.
  • 133 workers were killed at work. The sectors with the greatest numbers of fatalities were agriculture/forestry and construction.
  • 78,000 other injuries to employees were reported under RIDDOR, at a rate of 445.4 per 100,000 employees.
  • 620,000 reportable injuries occurred, according to the Labour Force Survey.
  • 28.2 million days were lost overall, due to work related ill health and workplace injury.
  • £14.2 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions.
  • 2535 mesothelioma deaths due to past exposure to asbestos (2012).

Of course, statistics like these don't take into account the cost in terms of human misery or the cost to business. We like to think we take a practical approach to health and safety, believing that prevention is always better than cure, and that to be effective, health and safety has to be:

  • Hands-on
  • Well planned
  • Documented in ways that are simple to administer and update.

Isn't health and safety going to cost me a lot of money?

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act will came into force in January 2009, raising the maximum penalties for health and safety offences from £5,000 to £20,000 in the lower courts and increasing the number of offences for which a prison sentence can be given in the lower and higher courts. So, health and safety is something no business can afford to scrimp on. Time and money spent on health and safety is well-spent: research shows that companies that have a positive health and safety culture are more productive. There is also a lot of free information available from the website of the Health and Safety Executive, www.hse.gov.uk

If you belong to a trade or professional body, free health and safety information may be available. At Blue Planet, we charge either by the hour, or on a lump-sum fixed price to help you control your costs.

Do I have to have an in-house health and safety manager?

No but all construction companies are required to have access to a source of competent health and safety advice. For all other companies it is best practice.

What are you responsible for as an employer?

Under The Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974, all employers have a number of responsibilities to their staff:

  • To provide adequate control of the health and safety risks arising from their work activities;
  • To consult with their employees on matters affecting their health and safety and that of contractors, clients and visitors (or anyone else who may be affected, e.g. passers by);
  • To provide and maintain a safe place of work;
  • To ensure safe handling and use of tools, equipment and materials;
  • To ensure that safe working practices are followed;
  • To provide safety equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure it is used;
  • To provide safety information, instruction, training and supervision;
  • To ensure all employees are competent to do their tasks;
  • To prevent accidents and cases of work-related ill health;
  • To review and revise the company's health and safety policy and associated documentation as required due to changes in legislation, working practices, the types of work undertaken or key company personnel.

Where appropriate, these responsibilities can be delegated, e.g. to a health and safety officer, so long as the employer is monitoring the process and arrangements effectively and providing all the necessary resources.

What responsibilities do employees have?

Employees must:

  • Co-operate with supervisors and the management of the company on health and safety matters.
  • Not interfere with anything provided to safeguard health and safety of staff, clients or other contractors (or anyone else who may be affected, e.g. passers by).
  • Take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
  • Take reasonable care of the health and safety of others.
  • Work in a safe manner in accordance with safe working practices and the company's risk assessments and method statements.
  • Use personal protective equipment and any other safety equipment as instructed by the Company.
  • Address and resolve health and safety issues as they arise wherever possible.
  • Report all health and safety concerns and issues that cannot be addressed and resolved to their management.
  • Not use any tools or equipment that are damaged or otherwise unsafe.

Do I have to have a health and safety policy?

The Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 requires all companies with 5 or more employees to have a written health and safety policy. The definition of "Employees" includes part timers, students on work experience, contractors and so on. If you have fewer than five, a written policy is not required but appropriate health and safety arrangements must be in place. Regardless of company size, your clients and organisations with whom you may wish to tender for business may stipulate that you have a health and safety policy. It is also a good way of demonstrating to employees that you have their best interests at heart and letting them know in a formal way what their employer's systems and procedures are and what is expected of them.

If you write my health and safety policy, what do I do about updating it?

We supply our clients' documentation on paper (unless they request otherwise) and on CD - and we will always email completed documents to you if you prefer. We always recommend that health and safety policies are reviewed and updated as necessary, at least once a year. This means that you are able to update the policy yourself if you prefer, or we can do this for you. In most cases, once we have reviewed any changes that have happened either in your organisation, e.g. whether you are providing new services, or things that affect your business, we then send out the replacement policy and any relevant new information for you to slot into your existing folders, together with a disk. This enables us to update your policy quickly and effectively for a small charge.

I've already got a health and safety policy so why do I need a new one?

Health and safety documentation should be reviewed at least annually, and sooner if:

  • Regulations or best practice change.
  • Your company introduces new services.
  • Your staff are to use new products, e.g. hazardous chemicals.
  • People within your organisation take on new roles and responsibilities.
  • It's also a good idea to review your processes and procedures if someone has an accident.

We will review your existing health and safety policy at no charge and advise whether it needs an update.

My workers all know what they are doing! Why is it so important to write things down?

It's very important that people know what is expected of them in a work environment; if things are not done in the prescribed way, appropriate action can be taken to correct things before an accident occurs. Once working practices and processes are recorded, they can be improved upon. Written documents also provide important evidence in the event of a health and safety inspector's visit or accident investigation, for example, records to show that someone has received and agreed to wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

Do I need a risk assessment and method statement?

The law says that the employer must carry out a risk assessment for every task that is carried out. In practice, if a person is performing the same tasks on a regular basis, a separate risk assessment doesn't have to be conducted every time but it should be possible to amend the risk assessment, on site - by hand, if necessary, in line with changing circumstance. The complexity of the risk assessment should reflect the amount of risk inherent in the task. A method statement sets out the way in which the work will be carried out in a step by step way, and complements the risk assessment.

What is the difference between a risk and a hazard?

A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. Risk is the likelihood of someone actually being harmed.

Are generic risk assessments and method statements acceptable?

Generic risk assessments are acceptable for many tasks that are performed on a regular basis, but they must be easy to change or update if necessary, for example if a task is being carried out on a building site, inclement weather may create additional hazards. Before work starts, the site should be surveyed and any new or unanticipated hazards should be recorded if necessary (e.g. by hand in a "site comments" box) - together with details of the control measures to be used. If in doubt, further (expert) advice should be sought and an amended risk assessment and method statement should be provided before work resumes.

I've been told that I have to carry out a special risk assessment for my work experience trainee? Why is this?

A young person is anyone aged under eighteen. Young people are not allowed to carry out all the tasks that a more mature worker can perform. This is due to the fact that their bodies may not be mature and so can more easily damaged. They can also lack the concentration of an older person and may make well-intentioned but dangerous mistakes because they are keen to impress or lack the confidence to ask questions. Sometimes they simply don't have the experience to recognise the potential for danger. We can help with a young person's risk assessment.

Do I need an accident book and what should I do with it?

An accident book is a way of recording work-related injuries and illnesses. You can buy accident books, or create your own. They must be kept safely and information should be recorded as soon as practically possible following an incident. Information must be recorded in such a way that other people's information cannot be viewed by the person making a report: proprietary accident books are usually perforated so that the forms can be removed from the book and filed separately, to prevent this from happening. Statistical data from the accident book can be used to monitor and improve the company's health and safety arrangements where necessary, e.g. arranging manual handling training or upgrading lifting equipment. The accident book can also be indispensable in the event of an enquiry or investigation, particularly if there is a claim against the company by a member of staff.

How frequently should I review my health and safety arrangements?

Health and safety documentation should be reviewed at least annually, and sooner if:

  • Regulations or best practice change.
  • Your company introduces new services or activities.
  • You introduce new products, e.g. hazardous chemicals.
  • People within your organisation take on new roles and responsibilities or carry out new activities.
  • It's also a good idea to review your processes and procedures if someone has an accident.

What is CDM?

CDM stands for the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. These regulations apply to all construction projects, although not every project is notifiable. They aim to ensure that all projects are planned with the full participation of everyone involved to bring safety to the fore - at all stages of the building's lifecycle - from design to the eventual demolition of the finished structure.

How do I know whether a construction project is notifiable under CDM?

The rules are quite straightforward on this: except where the project is for a domestic client, HSE must be notified of projects where construction work is expected to:

  • Last more than 30 working days + have 20 people or more on site at any one time; or
  • Involve more than 500 person days (e.g. 50 people working 10 days +)

All days when construction work is carried out count towards the period of construction work - public holidays and weekend don't count if no construction work is happening.

Note that if you are carrying out construction work on a property that you intend to sell for profit, the project is notifiable if the work falls outside the specified period.

How do I appoint a Principal Designer and what does one do?

The role of the Principal Designer is to provide the client with a key project advisor in respect of construction health and safety risk management matters, during the pre-construction phase.

The Principal Designer should assist and advise the client on appointment of competent contractors and the adequacy of management arrangements; ensure proper co-ordination of the health and safety aspects of the design process; facilitate good communication and co-operation and co-operation between team members and prepare the health and safety file.

By being involved with the client and other designers early in the process, the Principal Designer can make a significant contribution to reducing risks to workers during construction, and to contractors and end-users who work on or in the structure after construction.

When should a Principal Designer be appointed?

For all construction projects where there is more than one contractor, the client must appoint a competent, adequately resourced Principal Designer as soon as practicable before initial design work or other preparations for construction work have begun. The appointment must be made in writing.

Where can I find out more about CDM?

Managing health and safety in construction, guidance to the 2015 Regulations can be downloaded free of charge at www.hse.gov.uk.

I was trained in health and safety years ago. Why do I need more health and safety training?

You wouldn't expect to show a child how to cross the road once, and that to be enough. Although many training schemes and apprenticeships include an element of health and safety, everyone needs to have a refresher at regular intervals - especially if particular skills are not used very often. It's essential to keep up to date with new developments, changes of regulation and best practice, too. Over the last 60 years or so, industry first reduced accident rates by improving: hardware (effective guards, safer equipment); then employee performance (selection and training, incentives and reward schemes) and, then changed the way they manage and organise - especially by introducing safety management systems. Each improvement reduced accidents to a 'plateau' level where further improvement seemed impossible. Now, most accidents (and other 'business disruptions') happen as a result of employee errors or violations., e.g. taking short cuts, trying to improvise in a new situation. Training can help to reduce the number of accidents and to improve employees'responses in an emergency situation.

What is CSCS and why is it important?

CSCS stands for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. Many major construction sites insist that contractors hold a card before they are admitted to site as this is proof that they certain trade skills or experience and that they have passed an appropriate CSCS touch screen health and safety test. The card has to be updated every five years - further proof that workers' skills are current.

Can I book a CSCS card test through you?

No. Please don't call us to book a test! The CSCS helpline number is 0844 576 8777. They can advise on which CSCS card is right for you and where you can take the test.
Email: customerservice@cscs.uk.com
Web: www.cscs.uk.com

Can I obtain a CSCS card through you?

No, please call the helpline, as before

One of my colleagues has had an accident. Is it reportable under RIDDOR?

Your employer is is responsible for reporting accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences in accordance with Reporting of Injuries Diseases Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) to the enforcing authority as soon as practically possible.

The following list of injuries is not exhaustive, but should be referred to when determining if RIDDOR Reporting is required:

  • Death or specified injury including accidents when a member of the public is killed or taken to hospital;
  • A fracture, other than fingers, thumbs and toes;
  • Amputation of an arm, hand, finger, thumb, leg, foot or toe;
  • Permanent loss of sight or reduction of sight;
  • Crush injuries leading to internal organ damage;
  • Serious burns (covering more than 10% of the body, or damaging the eyes, respiratory system or other vital organs);
  • Scalpings (separation of skin from the head) which require hospital treatment;
  • Unconsciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia;
  • Any other injury arising from working in an enclosed space, which leads to hypothermia, heat-induced illness or requires resuscitation or admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours.

If something happens which does not result in a reportable injury, but which clearly could have done, it may be a dangerous occurrence which must be reported immediately (e.g. online) to the enforcing authority.

You can report a major or fatal injury by telephone on 0845 300 99 23. All other injuries must be reported online at www.hse.gov.uk/riddor

Help! I need a diversity/equal opportunities policy or environmental policy or customer care charter or business continuity management strategy or customer care charter or quality management statement or staff handbook! Can you help?

We love writing documentation but understand that many of our clients have neither the time nor the energy for it! Some organisations will not consider a tender submission unless it includes some or all of the documentation listed above. All our documentation is produced to a professional standard with your company's details - we will only include our details if you wish us to do so. Our starting point is to ask you about how your company works and then develop your documentation to reflect your company's values and processes. We also write procedures and processes for you.

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