Top ten health and safety myths for small firms

The top ten health and safety myths which affect low hazard small businesses in particular are:

Myth: All businesses need to employ the services of a health and safety consultant

Most small businesses know how to take sensible measures to protect their workers and their future. Further advice is available at the Health and safety made simple section of the HSE wesite. If dealing with high risks or new and uncertain processes then they may need specialist advice, help in getting this right can be found at the Health and safety made simple section of the HSE wesite.

Myth: If you employ a young person you have to carry out a separate risk assessment

A separate risk assessment is not necessary when you take on a young person. You should already have carried out a risk assessment to identify and control risks in your business, and as part of this process there are factors to consider for young people. As long as your current risk assessment takes account of these factors you don't need to carry out a new risk assessment each time you employ a young person. Further information can be found in the Young people section of the HSE website.

Myth: All businesses with less than 5 employees must have a written risk assessment

A risk assessment is not about paperwork but is about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your business. If you have fewer than five employees you don't have to write it down'. Further information is available at the Health and safety made simple section of the HSE wesite.

Myth: Every workplace must have a trained First-Aider

A trained first aider is not a requirement in every workplace. However, an employer must make proportionate first-aid arrangements. As a minimum, there must be a suitably stocked first-aid box, someone in charge of first-aid arrangements and information for employees about the arrangements in place. Further information is available at the First aid section of the HSE website.

Myth: Lone workers have to be regularly contacted by their employers to check they are not at risk

It will very often be safe for employees to work alone without the need for an employer to make regular checks, though employers need to consider and deal with foreseeable health and safety risks beforehand. If a significant risk remains, the employer will need procedures to monitor lone workers and this may include contact at suitable intervals. Further information is available in the Working alone document on the HSE website.

Myth: All portable electrical appliances must be tested every year by a qualified electrician

They don't, the law is to maintain equipment to prevent danger, and to ensure people are competent to do this work. Testing can be a useful tool to meet these requirements but there is no legal requirement to test nor is there any defined frequency if testing is done. Further information is available at the Electricity section of the HSE website.

Myth: You have to attend a formal training course before you can use a stepladder

For straightforward, short duration work using a stepladder you don't have to be formally trained, you just need to be competent to undertake the job in hand. You just apply a common sense based approach, considering any risks associated with the job beforehand. For further information is available at the Falls section of the HSE website.

Myth: If you employ a new member of staff you have to build a new toilet

Employers don't need to build a new toilet if they employ a new member of staff. However, they must provide adequate welfare facilities for employees. This means enough toilets and washbasins so that people do not have to queue for long periods. Where possible, facilities for men and women should be separate, failing that, rooms should have lockable doors. For further information see the FAQ on toilets.

Myth: Fluorescent marker pens and other everyday stationery items cannot be used without a written COSHH assessment

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, do not apply to the everyday use of marker pens and other stationary items - however, if you are involved in producing marker pens in a factory, the regulations will apply if harmful substances are involved in the manufacturing process.

And to find out all about The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations and whether they apply to your business see the COSHH section of the HSE website.

Myth: You should not clear snow from footpaths and walkways around your premises

There is no health and safety law preventing employers from clearing snow. You just need to take care when doing so.

Further advice to employers about preventing slips and trips in the workplace can be found at the Slips section of the HSE website.

This list is drawn from work over the past ten years to monitor press and other reports to HSE of claimed extraordinary health and safety requirements.

 
Updated 2022-06-07