29 Apr 2022 Does Your Small Business Need a Health and Safety Policy?
Simply speaking, all businesses in the UK need a health and safety policy of some sort, irrespective of size. For very small businesses, this can be as simple as thinking through your health and safety obligations and being aware of them. For others, it can mean fully documented health and safety procedures, risk assessments and records.
Health and Safety legislation applies to every business
The main legislation covering all workplace health and safety requirements in the UK is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). This act outlines certain fundamental differences in terms of the responsibilities of organisations of different types and sizes.
If your small business is generally low risk, it’s usually easy to meet legislative requirements, but this guide should ensure you know what to do for your individual business.
Do all small businesses need a Health and Safety policy?
Health and safety laws apply to businesses of all sizes. Even sole traders have a health and safety responsibility. This is because health and safety legislation is in place to protect both employees and members of the public.
The rules that are in place are generally proportionate to the type of business you, run, the activities you engage in during the course of your business and the risks that are associated with them. We outline the basics here:
Businesses with fewer than 5 employees
The Health and Safety Executive does require you to have considered risks that may be associated with carrying out your business activities. This consideration doesn’t extend to a requirement to have a written health and safety policy or evidence of risk assessments. It is still considered useful and best practice to have written policies and records wherever possible.
Businesses with more than 5 employees
Once businesses reach this milestone, it becomes a legal requirement to have a documented health and safety policy. There are many steps that your business will need to take at this stage to ensure legal health and safety compliance. These steps include:
Appointing someone to manage H&S
This doesn’t need to be an exclusive role or specific health and safety officer or manager. It means you need to give someone responsibility for health and safety matters within the organisation. This can be someone who takes ownership of the function alongside or as part of their main function.
Higher risk businesses, even smaller ones, may need extra help or advice. For example, businesses with functions that are considered high risk, such as construction or manufacturing, transport, food preparation, or jobs that involve machinery or equipment with the potential to injure.
Write a Health and Safety policy
This doesn’t need to be daunting. You can use HSE templates and examples to write a full, robust health and safety policy for your business.
Writing a health and safety policy includes three standards parts:
1. Statement of intent
This is where you say what you want your health and safety policy to do. You outline your general health and safety policy, and explain how you’re going to manage it and what your aims and goals are. The most senior person in the company should sign this, and it should regularly be updated and reviewed.
In this part, you should decide and list the names of the people in your business who have specific health and safety responsibilities. This can be a dedicated health and safety officer, or the person with overall health and safety managerial responsibility, along with managers, team leaders and supervisors who have a hand in ensuring health and safety procedures are followed in the day to day business.
This is where you detail the procedures and practicalities you have put in place to achieve the health and safety aims as set out in part one. These arrangements could include PPE, safety signs, risk assessments or training for employees.
Complete a risk assessment
The next stage in achieving H&S compliance is to carry out a risk assessment. Again, templates and examples are available from the HSE website. A risk assessment is a record of who could potentially be harmed during the course of your business’s activities, and how it could transpire. It’s also a place to state what you can and are doing to control the risks.
Consult with employees and provide instructions and training
Once you’ve prepared your policy and completed your risk assessment, it’s necessary to communicate your health and safety policy to your employees and create a positive safety culture. You can present this as written instructions, or provide formal Health and Safety training or a workshop. You need to be able to prove that you have given adequate instruction and information to your employees to carry out your Health and Safety procedures.
Get liability insurance
No matter the size of your business, all employers need employers’ liability insurance. This covers the cost of compensation should an employee be killed, injured or become unwell as a direct result of working for your business.
Public liability insurance is not a legal requirement, but the chances are as a business owner that you’ll be better off having it than not.
Ensure you are complying with your H&S responsibilities. Book Health and Safety training for you and your employees