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Health and safety for a new business

When you’re either going through or have just finished going through the process of starting a new business, health and safety protocol might not be a major consideration.

That said, your health and safety obligations will be one of the most important aspects to get right in order to ensure that your business can even continue to operate in the event of a health and safety related incident.

We’ve put together this guide to help you get your business’s health and safety procedures in place.

Health and safety for a new business

Providing training and developing your health and safety plan

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to health and safety procedure is that it’s a constantly evolving process. This isn’t something you give attention at the start of the business and then it’s finished forever.

Your staff need to be trained on correct usage procedures for anything that could pose a risk to them, such as the use of machinery and cleaning materials. This applies to any new hire for as long as those particular health and safety procedures are in place.

Similarly, you should review your health and safety plan whenever you expand your business into a new market, or bring in some new methods of operating your current business.

Essentially, anything that changes in your business that may be considered as an important development should trigger a review of business health and safety plans to make sure any new potential risks and hazards are dealt with, and the appropriate training is provided.

Risk assessment and risk mitigation

In 2015/16, 30.4 million working days were lost due to work-related injury or illness. Reducing risks wherever possible can help make sure that your staff do not become part of these statistics, and make sure that your business isn’t negatively affected as a result.

It’s a simple fact that every business will operate with some level of risk. You aren’t legally obligated to eliminate every single potential hazard from every aspect of your business, nor will it be possible to even do so. What you are legally obligated to do, however, is reduce and control risks wherever possible.

A good way to identify possible risks is to walk around every part of your business premises with the mind-set of an employee or customer instead of as the owner. This mental “distance” should help you identify the risks, which you can then take steps to mitigate. 

Through this process, you’ll be able to possibly eliminate some risks entirely, and make other processes much safer. For example:

  • You notice a piece of machinery is loud when in operation, so you provide earplugs to reduce the risk of hearing damage
  • Some trailing cables create a tripping risk, so you move around your appliances to hide them away
  • One cleaning substance you use produces powerful fumes and can cause skin irritation, so you source a non-harmful alternative to eliminate the risk

You should also make sure to document every step of the hazard analysis process. If your company hires over five employees, this information will have to be incorporated into an officially written health and safety policy statement.

It doesn’t have to be a complex document. All that it has to include is:

  • Your statement of intent for your commitment to ensuring health and safety and how you intend to manage it
  • Who in your business has the responsibility for managing health and safety on a day-to-day basis
  • The specific measures that you have in place to mitigate each risk

Your early risk assessment will make putting this document together fairly simple.

You should also make note of two important points: firstly, that you as the employer are still responsible for the overall health and safety of staff and customers. Secondly, even though you don’t have to make a written statement if you have fewer than five employees, you are still legally obligated to manage risk despite that.

Ignorance of the law, or not being aware of a hazard through a poor risk assessment, are not valid defences, and you will be held liable should something happen. Diligence is key to ensuring your employees, and your business, stays safe.

Protecting yourself financially

As a new business, making sure that you’re able to afford continued operation when something goes wrong is vital. Employer’s liability insurance is one such policy that can help you if something does go wrong.

Taking out an employer’s liability insurance policy is a legal requirement. You must take out a policy as soon as you become an employer. If you don’t, you risk fines of £2,500 for each day that you are uninsured. Your policy also legally has to be for at least £5 million worth of cover.

This policy will help you pay for any compensation costs that may arise if an employee becomes injured or ill in the line of work.  If your business will deal with members of the public at any point, then you will also need public liability insurance.

Notably, this isn’t a legal requirement, though if you do not have a policy in place and a customer injures themselves in any way connected to your business, such as while on your premises or as a result of a faulty product, then you will be liable for all the legal costs and compensation incurred.

Public liability insurance covers the costs for you, which means your business can afford to stay open following an incident, rather than potentially being brought perilously close to closure.

Something you may not have considered is what happens if an incident damages the premises and stops you from operating the business there for the near future. To make sure you’re able to continue operating no matter what happens, you need to have a business continuity plan in place.

How FSB can help you

When it comes to setting up your business, there are a multitude of aspects that have to be considered thoroughly.  To help you make sure you cover every aspect and that you’re wholly prepared for operating a new business, FSB’s Start Up Business Advice service can guide you every step of the way.

Our service includes business advisers that will be on hand to answer any of your queries on topics such as:

  • Business planning
  • Marketing
  • Funding
  • Tax & accounting

To find out more about the services we can provide you with, take a look at our Start Up Business Advice service now, or get in touch with a member of our team.

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