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3. How to manage health and safety
Health and safety management is an ongoing process, not a one-off task. It is not enough to just control the risks in your business, you must make sure that they stay controlled.
Under the Management of Health at Safety at Work Regulations, every employer must have arrangements for ‘effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review’ of measures to protect people.
At every stage of the process, consult with your workers. Involving them will help you develop a positive health and safety culture where risks are controlled sensibly.
By following the Plan, Do, Check, Act approach you can:
- plan what you need to do
- do the right things to implement your plan
- check your control measures
- act if your measures are not working
This will help you:
- find out where you need to make improvements
- take action quickly to keep your workers and others safe
- repeat the process to continually review your arrangements
Describe how you will manage health and safety in your business and plan to make it happen in practice. This is your health and safety policy.
To plan successfully, work out:
- where you are now, where you need to be and what you should do to get there
- how you will prioritise the improvements you need to make
- who will be responsible for health and safety tasks, and what their duties will be – you must appoint a competent person or people to help you do this
- how you will co-operate with anyone who shares your workplace
- how to prepare for emergencies like serious injuries, explosion, flood, electrocution, fire and chemical spills
The next step is to put your plan into action. By taking the following measures you will be taking the right actions to help you manage health and safety effectively:
- assess your risks – prioritise, assess and control safety, health and workplace risks
- provide information and training – give your workers the right information and training, and enough supervision, to do their job safely
- provide workplace facilities – provide toilets, washbasins and other welfare facilities and a working environment that's healthy and safe
- protect vulnerable workers – prioritise workers who are vulnerable or have specific risks, including those with disabilities
- report incidents – you must report certain accidents, incidents and diseases to HSE. This is under the Regulations known as RIDDOR
- provide first aid – make sure you have first aid kits, training and first aiders so workers get immediate help if taken ill or injured at work
- display the health and safety law poster – display this where your workers can easily read it or give each of them the equivalent leaflet
Measure how you are doing. Check that your processes and procedures are working properly and that the risks stay controlled.
Effective monitoring will help you identify problems, understand what caused them and decide what changes are needed to address them. It can include:
- making regular, planned checks of the workplace to look for risks that may have been overlooked, or people who are not working safely
- carrying out maintenance
- health surveillance for those working with hazardous substances
- refresher training and competency checks
- investigating accidents or near misses to find out what went wrong and why
As part of your monitoring, you should investigate incidents. These include accidents, near misses and dangerous occurrences. This will help you to:
- identify why your control measures failed and what improvements you need to make
- improve risk control in your workplace in the future
- plan to prevent the incident happening again
You must report certain incidents to HSE.
Absences from work
You should also follow up absences from work. There may be a work-related illness you aren’t aware of, or things you can do to help people get back to work.
Reviewing your health and safety performance will help you decide if your arrangements are still effective.
You will also be able to control any new risks if there are changes to your business or processes.
Look at your health and safety policy and risk assessment again and update them if:
- there have been any changes to your workplace or processes
- there are improvements you still need to make
- you have learnt something from accidents or near misses
By reviewing your measures you can complete the cycle, as the outcomes of your review will become your next plan to manage health and safety.
Health and safety management systems
A formal management system or framework can help you manage health and safety but it is your decision whether to use one or not.
The approaches may vary but the key actions can usually be traced back to Plan, Do, Check, Act.