The Public Liability Insurance Blog

Confessions of a health and safety co-ordinator

I have a confession to make, and what better channel to make confessions than the publically available and accessible internet?

I was once a health and safety coordinator and I had no idea what I was doing.

HealthSeveral years ago, whilst working at a previous company, a round of job cuts left the position of health and safety manager open and in this particular round of job-role pass the parcel, the music stopped with me.

Appointing me to manage the health and safety of a small office and adjoining call centre felt tantamount to negligence. It’s not that I’m completely stupid, it’s just that I do tend to have a bit of a blind spot for paperwork.

I kept quiet, kept my head down, did what I thought I was supposed to do and waited for the hammer to fall. I awaited the inevitable disciplinary action and contemplated what sort of excuse I could use to save myself and whether I should start looking for a new job to pre-empt it.

A year later, we were visited by a health and safety assessor to see how we were doing and whether we would adequately pass a hypothetical audit. My day had come.

What I learnt

One of the most shocking things that can happen to you if you are expecting a telling off is for someone to give an official, stern look over your work with no discernable expression and to dismissively say “ok, good job” before offering a few recommendations and then going on to talk about their upcoming archery tournament. Here is what the experience taught me:

It’s not difficult

Managing a health and safety policy is not complicated. All it really requires is a small amount of time followed by smaller amounts of time on a regular basis to keep on top of it. I’m sure that for massive multi-national corporations or huge manufacturing plants it’s a little bit more of a headache, but for a small business it really won’t take up much of your time, even if you do work with a fair few hazards.

Common sense

clipboardLook around your environment right now and I can almost guarantee that there is at least one thing that you can see that could potentially cause an accident. I for example have just seen my bag is about to reach out and grabbing the leg of whoever walks past my desk.

That sort of common sense observation will form the bulk of what you need to do to set up your health and safety documentation when it comes to risk assessments. To set it up, you have to briefly unleash your inner pessimist and let it run wild for a couple of hours, and you’ll be done. You might even spot a few things that can easily be fixed there and then.

Actually act on what you see

If you spot a massive pile of boxes in the fire escape and hypothesise that they might block the way out and also cause a bit of a fire risk at the same time, find somewhere else to put them. The worst thing you can do is identify a problem and then not do anything about it.

That’s actually a good point to remember about doing business in general. Making a mistake is something that everyone does from time to time but what’s important is recognising and fixing it.

The paperwork is not as heavy as it looks

Health and safety documentation looks intimidating, or just plain boring. I am by no means suggesting that filling it in is a barrel of laughs, but it’s not as time consuming as it might seem. Starting from scratch, you can probably get the bulk of it done in an afternoon depending on the size of your business.

A little advice goes a long way

Either getting a consultation from a professional advisor, or just someone who has done it before can go a really long way. The first assessment that I had not only let me stop stressing and get a little more sleep, but also pointed out a couple of areas that I had completely overlooked and nudged me in the right direction with a couple of risk assessments that my inner pessimist had been a bit too optimistic about.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need to make looking after health and safety someone’s full time job, but checking in with an expert every now and then can save you a bit of embarrassment and a potential nightmare further down the line.

Summary

Health and safety is a phrase often uttered with an accompanying eye-roll, but it doesn’t have to take up much time and it really is the best way to look out for your employees. Your compulsory employers’ liability insurance policy will give you a certain amount of peace of mind, but a solid and maintained health and safety policy will give you even more and is an easy thing to set up.

YOUR Insurance specialises in public liability insurance for small and medium sized businesses involved in several trades and professions. You can compare quotes for your business online, or call one of our advisors on 0800 107 8949.