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How to make your workplace safe

All employees, whether sat at a desk or working at height, are entitled to work in a safe environment. Here, we take a look at what you, as an employer, must do to ensure your workplace is compliant with basic health and safety legislation.

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All employees, whether sitting at a desk or working at height, are entitled to work in a safe environment. Here, we take a look at what you, as an employer, must do to ensure your workplace is compliant with basic health and safety legislation. As a business owner, you have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of your employees and anyone else who may be affected by your business and its activities. Provide health and safety information As an employer, you must either display the poster 'Health and Safety Law – what you should know' or provide staff with the leaflet 'Your health and safety'. Specific hazards must be clearly marked and you must also display your certificate of liability insurance. Carry out a thorough risk assessment This can be a fairly straightforward process – look around for any potential hazards, establish who might be at risk and then decide whether your current provisions are adequate. If not, you will have to take steps to address any potential problem areas. Companies with more than five employees must record their risk assessment. Provide first aid equipment A basic first aid kit is essential. It must also be someone's responsibility to check and maintain the first aid equipment. It is not a legal requirement to appoint a first aider, though it is often advisable. Fire safety The law relating to fire safety changed in 2006, with a risk assessment style approach introduced. Fire certificates for higher risk premises are no longer valid. Provision of suitable equipment Equipment must be suitable for the intended use and safe as defined by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. Employees must have suitable training in the use of any equipment and the equipment itself must be suitable and safe, well maintained and be labelled with any pertinent safety information. Serious incidents must be reported Although there is no set format for keeping the records, whatever system you chose to use must be capable of keeping the records on file for at least three years. Certain incidents must be reported to the local authority, deaths being one obvious example. Provide a 'comfortable' working environment This doesn't mean the office needs sofas, coffee tables and widescreen televisions, merely that basic standards are met. Toilets are essential, though separate male and female facilities are not necessary. Water must be available for both cleaning and drinking and the office must not be too cramped – a minimum of 11 cubic metres is required per employee. Finally, the temperature must be at least 16 degrees centigrade, though a temperature down to 13 degrees is acceptable if the work is physically active. Take advice Following the points above will give you a good basis for ensuring that you follow health and safety practices in the workplace. However, this hot tip offers only an outline of the legislation. For full, easy-to-follow advice on all aspects of health and safety legislation and, most importantly, what smaller businesses must do to comply, subscribe to the Forum's Practical Health & Safety package. The package includes print and online versions of our Health and Safety Guide, which covers general and sector-specific guidance, from building, construction and installation to warehousing and care homes, plus customisable templates, and is supported by a health and safety advice line. Members can call us on 0845 130 1722.

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