Every year thousands of people across the UK become ill, are injured, or lose their lives while at work. Most of these incidents are caused by poor health and safety practices. By creating a safer space for your employees, you can avoid the physical, emotional, and financial toll that workplace accidents create.
All UK employers have a duty of care towards their employees, any self-employed contractors on-site, and the general public. This is not only a moral obligation but also a legal requirement.
However, health and safety is about more than just staying within the letter of the law. Businesses that have strong health and safety cultures often experience increased productivity, better rates of employee job satisfaction and enhanced employee retention.
Providing access to relevant health and safety courses is a key aspect of creating a safe workplace environment. Fortunately, there are a wide range of training providers out there that offer suitable training online. One such example is Human Focus, which offers a variety of e-learning tools. But there are many more out there.
In this article, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the obligations employers have and how you can help your employees to stay safe at work.
UK Health and Safety Regulations
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) is the principal piece of legislation governing UK health and safety law. The act describes the duties employers have to their employees, the public, and themselves.
The HSWA was further refined by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This legislation requires employers to ensure they are risk assessing the hazards in their work environment and controlling them suitably.
Other important UK health and safety regulations are:
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995)
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
- The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 amended 2002
- The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
Your Health and Safety Obligations as an Employer
The HSWA requires employers to ensure the safety of the workplace and their employees “as far as is reasonably practicable”.
The main duties that employers have under UK health and safety legislation include:
- Informing employees about risks in the workplace
- Providing access to appropriate health and safety training
- Ensuring all work equipment is operated safely and properly maintained
- Implementing safe systems of work
- Ensuring the correct handling of hazardous materials
- Providing protective clothing or equipment (PPE)
- Correctly reporting any workplace accidents, injuries, or illnesses
- Creating a formal health and safety policy
- Conducting regular risk assessments and recording the results
Failure to adhere to UK health and safety law can result in severe financial penalties and/or criminal charges. Employers that are in breach of health and safety legislation also run the risk of being sued for negligence by employees, self-employed persons, or members of the public.
How to Make Your Workplace Safe
Creating a safe place of work requires the commitment and involvement of both employers and employees. There are numerous steps that managers, supervisors, and staff can take to reduce workplace hazards.
You can improve health and safety at your place of business by:
- Ensuring the workspace is sufficiently ventilated
- Maintaining a comfortable temperature
- Keeping all equipment and work areas clean
- Having clear and legible signage
- Making sure all work areas are well lit
- Providing ergonomic workstations
- Storing all hazardous chemicals or materials correctly
- Encouraging an open dialogue regarding health and safety issues
- Allowing employees to take regular stretch breaks, meal breaks, and holidays
- Designating areas for changing clothes, meal breaks, and providing a space for women who are pregnant or nursing
- Ensuring access to clean water for drinking and washing
- Holding regular meetings on health and safety
- Making sure staff participate in relevant health and safety courses
The Impact of Unsafe Workplaces
Unfortunately, accidents, injuries, and workplace-related fatalities are still common occurrences. In the UK during 2019/20 there were 1.6 million work-related illnesses, 0.7 million workers suffered a non-fatal injury, and there were 111 fatal injuries, according to the latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Additionally, approximately 1.17 million employees reported that they suffered from work-related mental issues such as stress, depression, or anxiety.
These statistics also show the impact these incidents have on the UK economy. The HSE reports a loss of 38.8 million working days due to ill health and non-fatal injuries. The total cost of work-related injuries to the UK economy in 2019/20 was estimated to be £16.2 billion.
The most common causes of non-fatal injuries in the workplace during 2019/20 were:
- Slips, trips or falls on the same level – 29%
- Improper handling, lifting or carrying objects – 19%
- Being struck by a moving object – 11%
- Acts of violence – 9%
- Falls from a height – 8%
Injuries at work that proved fatal during the same time period were caused by:
- Falling from a height
- Being struck by a moving vehicle
- Being struck by a moving object
- Being trapped under collapsing or overturning machinery
- Coming into contact with moving machinery
Many of these illnesses, accidents and deaths could have been prevented if proper health and safety procedures were followed.
The Benefits of Health and Safety Training
Although injuries and accidents at work do happen, the good news is that many of these incidents are avoidable. The most effective way to reduce the risk of someone being injured in the workplace is by ensuring that your employees have access to accredited health and safety courses.
Health and safety training will give your staff the skills and knowledge they need to identify and control workplace hazards. They will be able to design and implement safer working procedures and know how to react if an incident occurs.
Investing in health and safety training does more than just ensure your business is meeting its legal obligations. It also shows your employees and the public that you are committed to their well-being. This can result in an enhanced professional reputation, making it easier for your company to win new business and earn respect from peers in your industry.
Health and safety training avoids costs relating to downtime caused by employee injuries. Encouraging a strong health and safety culture makes employees feel valued and can improve their productivity, loyalty, and job satisfaction levels.
The Advantages of Online Health and Safety Courses
Many employers choose to provide their workers with access to online health and safety training. Online health and safety courses are often considerably cheaper than classroom-based learning programs. They can be organised to fit work schedules and trainees can learn at their own individual pace.
A key to finding adequate online training is to ensure that it is accredited. For instance, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) certifies providers that are able to demonstrate they are able to suitably provide content in their globally recognised course IOSH Managing Safely.
Hazard specific training should also be accredited by that specialise in that area, for instance the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA), accredits courses that meet its high standards of asbestos training. While The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) accredits courses across a wide variety of areas.
Not all health and safety training providers are the same. Some providers may be limited in the course content that they offer. Others, such as Human Focus, are also able to offer bespoke courses, tailored to your specific training needs.
Knowing what to look for can go a long way in ensuring you find what you need.