Managing Health and Safety

Every business, regardless of its size, has obligations for Health & Safety under two key pieces of legislation: The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007. This legislation places responsibility for occupational health and safety on all stakeholders.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the national statutory body with responsibility for enforcing occupational safety and health law, promoting and encouraging accident prevention, and providing information and advice to all companies, organisations, and individuals.

The Authority is also the national Competent Authority for REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and other chemicals legislation. The Authority deals with every size of workplace in every economic sector.

In ‘Small Business, Getting Started’ the HSA advises that:

‘The effective protection of employees in relation to their safety, health and welfare often does not require any specialist expertise or knowledge and certainly does not generally require any major financial outlay. In a small business where the risk to workers is relatively low, it may just require a responsible and competent business owner/manager who is aware of the possible risks and has put in place practical steps to minimise those risks.

There are three very simple steps a small business owner/manager can take to minimise workplace accidents:

Discourage risk-taking behaviour: If someone undertakes an unsafe act and “gets away with it”, the potential consequences of that act should be made clear to all concerned. Lead by example and don’t take chances yourself. If employees see you taking risks, don’t be surprised if they behave the same way.

Encourage individuals to behave safely: Explain to employees why unsafe or risky behaviour is not acceptable. Verbalise the consequences both to their own safety, health and welfare and to those of their colleagues. Comment positively on examples of good practice when you see it. Where possible, reward examples of good safety and health behaviour.

Improve safety behaviour in the performance of routine tasks: Research shows that it is when performing routine tasks that people become less vigilant and concentration can become less focused. Try to rotate tasks and allow those who must undertake routine work to take regular on-the-spot “time outs” from standard routine activity.'

In terms of introducing a system to manage employee safety, health and welfare, a simple five step process should be followed:

  1. Identify the hazards, i.e. anything that could cause harm.
  2. Assess the risks, i.e. the likelihood of the harm occurring and the severity or the consequences if it does.
  3. Select the control measures, i.e. measures to eliminate or reduce the hazards.
  4. Write the safety statement, i.e. a written outline of the control measures identified above and details re whoever is responsible for implementing them.
  5. Record the findings and review, i.e. the safety statement should be updated as circumstances change and existing risks diminish or new risks emerge.

HSA, Small Business, Getting Started

For further information:

Guidelines on Risk Assessments and Safety Statements (2.1Mb)

A Short Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (347Kb)

Improving Safety Behaviour at Work: Guidance for Employers, Managers and the Self-Employed (273Kb)

Small Business/Risk Assessment made easy

Donegal Local Enterprise Office frequently runs an IOSH accredited ‘Managing Safety’ course. For details of this course and for additional information please contact 074 9160735