Health and safety checklist for small businesses

There's no need to be intimidated by health and safety. Tick off this checklist to ensure that your business is covered.

It can seem baffling, but getting up-to-date with your health and safety is much simpler when broken down into smaller steps.

Follow this checklist to help you through the process.

Assign your health and safety representative(s)
Write a health and safety policy
Do a risk assessment
Provide training where necessary
Choose your training methods
Provide the right workplace facilities post-training
Make arrangements for first aid, accidents and illness
Put your health and safety poster up
Take out the right type of insurance

Please note that, though health and safety law applies to all businesses, micro businesses with fewer than five employees don’t need to write down their risk assessment and health and safety policy.

Assign your health and safety representative(s)

First, choose a competent person to oversee the project.

The competent person should have necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety. This could be yourself, one or more of your employees, someone from outside your business or a combination of the above.

Make sure that you divvy out responsibilities evenly so that one member of staff isn’t overburdened. If you run a high-risk workplace or you feel you and your staff can’t handle the tasks required, it’s worth your while hiring someone externally.

The staff that you choose are entitled to time off with pay for training to meet their responsibilities.

Write a health and safety policy

Now is the time to get down to writing your health and safety policy.

It doesn’t have to be a bumbling mess – the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has policy statement template as well as an example health and safety document for you to refer to.

Not sure what to include? The name of the employer or senior manager who has overall responsibility for health and safety should go in there. The member of staff who oversees its implementation day-to-day should be listed too.

Don’t forget:

  • General policy arrangements
  • Who is responsible for specific actions
  • Arrangements of what you are going to do to achieve the aims in your health and safety policy

It should also mention where the first aid box and accident box are located.

Remember to review your policy regularly, particularly if you go through any major changes or introduce new equipment.

Measures to put in place

A risk assessment will tell you if you’re putting sufficient measures in place to keep your staff from harm. The templates mentioned above include a risk assessment section for you to fill out.

Start by having a walk around the workplace and taking note of potential hazards. Think about how likely it could be for someone to be affected by the hazard and how serious the harm could be. Get second opinions from your team on where they see potential hazards.

It doesn’t have to be exhaustive; just point out the more likely mishaps. HSE has created an online risk assessment tool to help you out.

The obvious example is a building site – think falling parts, injuries caused by heavy lifting, dangers for staff in falling from greater heights – even something as everyday as tripping on uneven ground.

For those transporting cash or valuables, you’ve got a whole different set of risks. Primarily, they’re vulnerable to robbery.

When writing up your risk assessment, be aware of employees who have specialist requirements such as new staff, young workers, expectant mothers and people with disabilities. Make sure your home workers know the health and safety policy when they come in.

‘Be aware of new staff, young workers, expectant mothers and people with disabilities’

Review when you bring in new equipment, substances or procedures that could lead to hazards.

Provide training where necessary

Most of the people in your business will need training: you, managers and supervisors, employees, contractors and self-employed people who work for you.

This goes for training your competent nominated person(s) as well as the rest of your staff. Training must be provided free and during working hours.

Different laws outline different areas:

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states that you need to provide appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure the health and safety of your employees.

‘Training must be provided free and during working hours’

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 identifies where health and safety training is particularly important. This is when people start work, on exposure to new or increased risks and in areas where they may need refresher training.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 requires you to consult with employees or their representatives on issues relating to health and safety.

The Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 ensures that learners doing work experience are covered by health and safety law.

This goes for preventative training too. Coming back to the building site example, employees should be trained in working from heights and on different pieces of equipment and surfaces, like scaffolding, ladders and roofs. Wherever possible, avoid working at height.

As for the job which involves transporting cash, practising the process helps. Keep the employee carrying the valuables safe by ensuring they have another person with them and that they’re using a discreet bag for the valuables. Avoiding a routine helps so that criminals don’t get savvy to when you move cash and what your route is. Limit the amount of cash or valuables carried on each trip and only transport them during daylight hours.

Choose your training methods

You’ve got a few different ways to choose from:

  • Giving information/instruction
  • On-the-job training
  • Training in a meeting room
  • Open and distance learning
  • Group-based or individual
  • Computer or interactive training

For basic office-based requirements, it’ll be enough to do your training in a meeting room. If the job involves specific training, like online sales, you’ll need to do computer or interactive training.

You can get help in shaping your training from National Occupational Standards, trade unions, further education colleges and private training organisations.

They’ll give you:

  • Information and advice on skills and training
  • The impact of training on business performance
  • Training methods
  • How to set up in-house training
  • How to find a training provider

It’s important that the training is easy to understand and that your trainer has enough time and resource to adequately prepare.

Get feedback at the end of training to ensure that your staff have understood it and to get a better idea of how to improve training in the future.

Provide the right workplace facilities post-training

As standard, you’re required to supply items and conditions to ensure your staff’s welfare including toilets, hand basins with soap, drinking water, somewhere to rest, good ventilation, reasonable working temperature and well-maintained equipment.

Drinking water is a must in the workplace

For workplaces that require specialist clothing, there should be somewhere to get changed.

With some sectors you need to provide extra equipment or further training – it’s best to contact the industry authority to find out more.

Make arrangements for first aid, accidents and illness

As well as supplying first aid boxes, ask someone to take charge of first aid needs like keeping the box stocked up. They should also be responsible for first aid arrangements like calling the emergency services where necessary.

It’s important to have a trained first aid person on site, especially if the workplace carries more risks.

Put your health and safety poster up

One of the last things on your list is to put the health and safety poster up where it will be visible to all members of staff.

Take out the right type of insurance

By law, you must have employers’ liability insurance. Public liability insurance is also worth bearing in mind.

According to ihasco, a company can be fined up to £2,500 for any single day that they’re without adequate insurance.

The only potential exceptions to having employers’ liability insurance apply if you have no employees or are a family business and all of your employees are closely related to you. For more information you should refer to the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.

If you need further information on providing workplace health and safety for your small business, you might also contact any trade unions, employers’ organisations and trade associations associated with your type of business.

Further reading

How to introduce a health and safety apprenticeship to the workplace

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

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Health and Safety