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Health and Safety Policy - health and safety consultancy Huddersfield, Yorkshire | Buzz Safety

Health and Safety law doesn’t apply to me – I have less than 5 employees!

Health and Safety law doesn’t apply to me – I have less than 5 employees!

There’s a commonly-believed myth that health and safety law doesn’t apply to businesses with less than five employees.

However, this belief is wrong and can place your business and your employees at significant risk!

This misconception stems from a strange quirk written into health and safety law. The Health and Safety at Work Act tells all employers that they are required to:

“Prepare a written statement ………………… of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements …………. for carrying out that policy”

 The Health and Safety at Work Act, written in 1974, requires that this policy should be written down.

When the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations were issued some years later (1992 originally), they required that although all employers must have such arrangements in place, employers are only required to record them in writing if they have 5 or more employees.

These regulations also specify the requirement for employers to carry out Risk Assessments. Again, employers are only required to record the significant findings if the employer has 5 or more employees.

“Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record—

(a) the significant findings of the assessment; and

(b) any group of his employees identified by it as being especially at risk.”

There’s much confusion surrounding this, but failure to recognise that you must thoroughly assess risk and put a health and safety policy in place – even if only verbally – could land you in hot water.

For example, I was contacted once by an employer with only two employees. His business had been randomly inspected by an HSE inspector. The director was unable to demonstrate – either verbally or in writing – that they were aware of their health and safety responsibilities nor had they any arrangements in place to manage the risks created by their work activities.

As a result, a huge financial burden was then placed on the business. They were required to pay the HSE Fee for Intervention  (currently £129 per hour) and were served with four improvement notices, all of which required action by a certain date.

The improvement notices required training, inspections, surveys and the provision of an LEV system. The cost to the business – all at once – was huge.

Had the company director been aware of his legal duties and put in place a simple health and safety management system that could grow with his business, these costs would have been met incrementally and slowly, not placing a huge financial burden on the business all at once.

But most importantly, the lack of arrangements for managing health and safety placed staff at significant risk for a prolonged period. Staff were freely inhaling carcinogenic welding fume with no controls in place, noise levels were excessive potentially leading to hearing loss in future, and pressurised systems on site had not been inspected.

The financial cost was significant but the risk to human health was even more so. Given that many conditions develop over time and the nature of the hazards to which the workers were exposed, the potential for a delayed effect on their health in the future remains.

Personally, I would always advocate having a simple policy that states how you manage health and safety and record the significant findings of your risk assessments, regardless of your business size. No matter how experienced you are in the world of business, it can be a very stressful event when an HSE Inspector comes to call. It is always difficult when we feel we are under scrutiny, and we won’t always think as clearly as we would like to. Write it down in a simple format and it is all there at your fingertips whenever you need it.

Here at Buzz Safety, we are very happy to meet for an hour’s free consultation to help you better understand your health and safety obligations. Please feel free to contact us, whatever your health and safety query

07572 464445

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