It is easy to believe that health and safety obligations are an unnecessary burden to the small business owner. The media frequently features crazy stories about Health and Safety and complaints are made about how onerous health and safety legislation is.
We are undoubtedly living in an age where many employees are fortunate to be at work, with mass redundancies being commonplace. However, even when recruitment of staff has arguably never been easier, surely the successful small business owner should still consider their workforce to be their most valuable asset?
So rather than moan about the burden of keeping your employees and visitors safe from harm, here are some tips about how you can comply with health and safety legislation and what to do if you do face a claim from an injured employee:
1. Assess risk
One of the biggest mistakes the small business tends to make is to fail to properly consider the risks work processes pose to its employees. Conducting risk assessments is not rocket science. It simply involves considering aspects of your business that may pose a risk of injury to your workforce or visitors to your premises, recording these and taking appropriate steps to minimise the risks.
2. Training and Inductions
New staff should have thorough inductions and training, not just to help them settle in and become an effective member of your workforce but also to protect the small business owner from any complaint or claim should accidents happen at a later date. Training should also be top priority for any employee changing their role within your business and any employee with specific vulnerability such as their age, medical conditions, body frame etc.
If you do conduct training it is potentially worthless from the perspective of defending a personal injury claim if there are no documented records proving the training took place. Records should include who attended the training and the course content. Sometimes even when the small business owner organises training it is still insufficient if it does not properly address the specific risks of injury to your employees or if you have not ensured that the employee fully understands the training you provide. To overcome this, perhaps you can organise a quiz for all delegates to complete at the end of the session to make the training more interesting and upbeat but also to serve as proof that you are training your staff and checking they have understood the information relayed!
3. Take those rose tinted glasses off
Many businesses suffer from insensitivity to defective or unnecessary equipment. For example, the broken chair that has been in the staff room for the last 9 months that doesn’t serve any purpose other than cluttering up the place!
Involve your staff in making your workplace a safer place, especially the newer recruits. Get everyone to look at your premises and its contents with fresh eyes and tag items that need to be disposed of. Set up a place in your premises for tagged items to be moved to and then arrange their safe disposal. This proactive approach to clearing your business of broken items not only minimises the risk of injuries being caused by defective equipment but also helps to bring in a sense of fresh energy and positivity to your workplace.
4. Don’t take it personally!
In my business we frequently defend and pursue personal injury claims for compensation for work accidents through UK courts and find it surprising when an employer reacts aggressively towards the injured party for turning to the law to claim what is rightfully theirs.
My advice if you are unfortunate enough to have an employee injured whilst working for you, is try to detach yourself from the emotional irritation of being sued. Every employer is required to have insurance to cover this kind of thing so forward the details of the claim to them and make your insurers do what they are paid to do!
Use the accident or claim as an opportunity to improve your processes. Look as objectively as you can at what went wrong and what you can do to prevent a recurrence. Remember what is at the heart of the claim; someone has suffered an injury because you may have failed to honour your duties to keep them safe.
Of course, if you can honestly say there was no fault on your part, whether it be a failure to train employees or properly maintain equipment, then produce the evidence of this to your insurers and help them to fight the claim!