Clive James, Training Development Manager, St John Ambulance
You know it’s your responsibility to make sure your organisation is meeting its legal requirements for health and safety. Is it? Asks Clive James, Training Development Manager, St John Ambulance.
Whatever the industry, the consequences of non-compliance with health and safety regulations can have a big impact on the welfare of the employees. Between 2008 and 2009 there were nearly 105,000 injuries which led to absence from work. It can also be critical to the business – in the last year there have been over 1100 cases of businesses being taken to court because of health and safety failings, resulting in 87 percent being convicted.
Ultimately, the onus is on the business owner or director. We have seen evidence that the more attention paid to health and safety at a management level, the more mindful of it the staff will be. If someone is hurt within a company, the owner will be held accountable and the repercussions can be immense, legally and financially. Lost days and financial penalties can cost an organisation time, money, and reputation. Last year 4.7 million days were lost due to workplace injury and 180 workers were killed at work, which can result in imprisonment in line with the Corporate Manslaughter Act. By providing adequate cover to ensure the safety of staff, a business can also protect itself from these penalties.
“Recently, we saw that over 15 percent of businesses have never carried out an assessment to determine risks within the workplace. According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) 70 percent of workplace accidents could be prevented”
Risk assessments should be conducted in every working environment in order to determine what potential problems could arise and what elements of the workplace could harm people. At St John Ambulance we spend a lot of time training employers to conduct a risk assessment themselves, enabling the business to take control of its compliance by conducting tests without the need for third party intervention. The business owner can then put precautions in place to prevent accidents and ill health, and ensure the welfare of staff .
As well as assessing the risks and possible dangers of the workplace, every workplace must also comply with the same basic rules and regulations to protect its employees, all of which come under the umbrella of The Health and Safety at Work Act. This includes regulations for display screen equipment; manual handling operations; personal protective equipment and the control of hazardous chemicals, among other things. There are also additional regulations that all workplaces are subject to, like first aid regulations, which state that first aid equipment must be provided and be accessible for all staff.
Further to this, a first aid trained member of staff must be on site at all times, and it is recommended that more than one employee is trained to ensure that planned absences are covered. If no first aider is present, that company is in breach of the law, we recently found that 79 percent of businesses could report instances when no first aider was present but were not aware of the legal implications. Simple common sense tells us how important first aid can be – if someone is injured and there is no first aider around, it can be fatal. For example, if a person is unconscious their airway can become blocked and it can take just four minutes for the brain to begin deteriorating, which is much faster than the time it would normally take for an ambulance to arrive. If no one around knows how to put them in the recovery position then their life could be compromised.
In addition to the regulations that govern all businesses, it’s important to be aware of the specific rules that cover your industry. There are several sources available to help businesses address their requirements, for example there is a wealth of knowledge available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which provides information and guidance to all industries on health and safety. Additionally, at St John Ambulance, we aim to make health and safety compliance achievable for all businesses, big or small, in any industry. We offer a wide range of courses to help people understand the basic processes involved in making their workplace legally compliant and we recently launched a Health & Safety Basics course to help businesses ensure good practice.
We are also keen to recommend some basic measure that a business can put into place to make their staff feel safer and happier at work. These can be anything from long-term initiatives, such as providing regular medical check-ups, to simpler measures such as and setting up a ‘time-out room’ to give staff a quiet place to work or have a five minute break. Just a few gestures like these, coupled with providing first aid training to employees and promoting health and safety procedures, can make a big difference to the wellbeing of the workforce.