Think Health and Safety only matters if you work in heavy industry or construction? Think again. Health and Safety is vital in every single business, even if you are involved in seemingly risk-free or sedentary activities. As an employer, no matter what your line of business, you have a duty of care to your employees and must provide them with a safe working environment where they may go about their duties without being placed at unnecessary risk of illness or injury.
If you are in any doubt as to the seriousness of those responsibilities, you may change your mind when you take a look at how much compensation you might have to pay in the event of an accident. In order to protect your business, you need to be fully aware of your obligations and take steps to reduce or remove any potential risks in your workplace.
What constitutes risk?
It’s obvious that some industries are inherently more dangerous than others, such as construction where workers may be required to work at height or with dangerous machinery. However, even in an office environment, there are a surprising number of risks which, if neglected, could lead to you being held liable for any injuries sustained by an employee. For example:
- working at a computer all day could lead to eye strain, back pain or repetitive strain injury (RSI) if the chair or workstation is unsuitable and adequate breaks are not taken
- trailing wires could present a trip hazard
- spillages which are not properly signposted or promptly cleaned could lead to slips and falls – one of the most common reasons for personal injury claims
- faulty equipment could lead to electric shock
- heavy lifting of box files, computer kit and many other items could lead to a range of accidental injuries
This list is by no means exhaustive but it does serve to illustrate the sort of workplace injuries which commonly lead to compensation claims and why it is so important to ensure that you carry out thorough and regular assessments to identify and eliminate any dangers posed by physical hazards or poor working practices. Moreover, you must ensure that employees are fully trained in measures to safeguard their own and their colleagues’ safety. This might include educating workers on good posture at their desk, guidance on taking breaks or manual handling techniques. A worker who suffers a back injury lifting an item incorrectly could legitimately claim that you, the employer, were at fault because you failed to train them on how to lift properly; an employee who suffers a similar injury because they lifted incorrectly despite your clear guidance cannot.
Why health and safety in the workplace matters
Remember that you could be legally accountable for the actions or negligence of employees if they cause injury to others because of inadequate training or guidelines. In order to reduce the risk of accidents and protect your business from potential injury claims, you must not only be scrupulous in your observation of health and safety measures; you must foster a culture of similar responsibility amongst your employees.