Don’t get caught out by health & safety legislation when you can least afford it, especially during the recession!
What makes this recession different is that employees now have more rights than ever before, making it increasingly difficult for companies to save costs by laying off staff without running the risk of losing even more towards high solicitors bills, fines, award payouts and settlements.
Our 25 years’ experience at Peninsula has taught us how to help other businesses find ways to come out of the recession “leaner and meaner” whilst treating their employees fairly and avoiding any legal action on the employment front.
Apart from the obvious employment law implications of making staff redundant, it is also important that businesses don’t fall foul of their health & safety obligations whilst trying to save costs during the difficult times ahead. Whilst planning your next move, it may be worth considering the following health & safety implications of reducing staff numbers as a way out of the recession:
- With fewer people remaining to do the same amount of work, employers have to revisit their risk assessments to ensure that these employees are not exposed to additional risks because of fatigue due to working longer hours or taking on more responsibilities or if they are doing work for which they have not had adequate training.
- Employers will have to pay even closer attention to their obligations to monitor and minimise the causes of stress amongst their employees due to the changes.
- There may be an increased risk of fires in the workplace, mainly due to empty buildings next door or staff cut backs which can lead to disruption in your health and safety arrangements, eg. if you dismiss the cleaner, rubbish will start piling up.
- Insurers will be even less likely to pay out claims during a recession.
- Insurance Premiums may go up, especially after a fire or an accident.
All the above only increase the need to have better management of all employment and health & safety matters. By following Peninsula’s guidance, business owners can gain better control over these risks and increase their chances of getting better insurance rates and avoiding claims, whilst also minimising other uninsured costs and any disruption to the business when they can least afford it.
On an even more positive note, having good health & safety policies, procedures and practices can also present some real commercial benefits. You may for example stand a better chance at winning tenders because of being able to satisfy the requirement to produce health & safety documentation. This may just give you the edge over your competitors, particularly during a time when more businesses are competing for fewer opportunities during these tough times.
So, from a health & safety perspective what should you be aware of to ensure that you meet regulatory standards as well provide a safe working environment for staff, in good or bad times?
Health and Safety is paramount not just to your employees but also for the reputation of your business. You’re responsible for the health and safety and welfare of everyone affected by your business and its activities, including your employees (whether they work on your premises another site such as an additional office or from home), all visitors, even members of the public if they’re outside your premises.
Firstly conduct a risk assessment covering safety aspects your business faces. Ensure that you cover all aspects of your business and highlight any potential hazards, no matter how trivial they may seem. Remember, you must act upon the findings of your risk assessment rather than sweeping it aside for the future, act now to combat any risks.
You also need to look at introducing a policy which addresses how you deal with health & safety issues. Managing risks is not just about legislation, it combines common sense and corporate responsibility at all levels throughout your company. Effective planning and good leadership is instrumental in ensuring effective safety procedures. Workers also have responsibility to look after their own health & safety and that of their colleagues.
If you have not done so already then you must take out an Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance and the certificate should be shown. Your staff may be injured or become ill because of their employment for you. As a consequence they might try to claim compensation from you. Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance provides you with cover against claims like these and you must ensure you use an authorised insurer.
Whether you employ one person or twenty people you must display the HSE’s (Health & Safety Executive) health and safety law poster. The poster includes health and safety information and lets staff, visitors and contractors know who is responsible for the health and safety within your workplace. Display the poster where your workers can easily read it, and ensure it is kept in a readable condition.
Furthermore you must also ensure that all of your staff including self-employed people know how to work safely and that they can carry out their duties risk free. So ensure that they are trained to know hazards and any risks they may face. Ensure regular training is carried out especially where new equipment is involved. All training should take place during work hours at the expense of the company. Training should be repeated and updated on a regular basis and where seen fit to do so. For example, an employee may fill in for an absent worker and as a consequence the individual undertakes a job role that they may not be familiar with. Ensure you keep documentation of all training undertaken and that the recorded information is available for inspection at any time.
As a responsible employer you need to ensure the welfare of your employees and provide for their welfare needs including those individuals with disabilities. For example you should provide appropriate toilets and washing facilities. Give consideration to lighting and temperature. Welfare also includes the provision of drinking water, facilities for rest and changing areas if needed.
Finally, Health & Safety legislation dictates that you must consult with your workers on health & safety. This should be a consultation exercise to gain their views on safety issues, risks and your plans to make the workplace a safer place. Concerns should be taken seriously and acted upon where possible.
Health & safety is a very important issue that any employer should take seriously however taking shortcuts can prove fatal, so if you think health & safety is expensive, just wait and see how costly an accident can be!
For further information on Peninsula services please visit www.peninsula-uk.com/fdcentre.