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  • Does my business need a health & safety representative? Apr 13, 2018

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    Most businesses are aware of the obligation to carry out health & safety risk assessments, and to train staff who might be undertaking dangerous tasks. Fewer employers however appreciate the full scope of the role employees should have in forming health & safety policy, or go to great enough lengths to source feedback and engage with employees on their own safety.

    It is likely that employees see more risks and potential near misses than are ever catalogued or reported, and tapping into their first-hand knowledge can radically improve your approach to workplace safety. If you haven’t already, then the best avenue to receive this feedback may be to hire a health & safety representative. But what do they do, and when should you consider appointing one?

    Legal obligations

    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has placed more prominence on the role of employees in recent years, and the unique insights they bring to identifying and preventing risks.

    All employers are now legally obligated to consult with every employee on workplace health & safety, in both a reactive and proactive manner. Areas requiring consultation include:

    • Any new measures, systems or equipment which may ‘substantially affect’ their safety at work

    • The acquisition of ‘competent people’ to ensure health & safety compliance

    • The provision of information on risks, how to deal with them and what to do if you are affected by them

    • Planning and organising safety training

    • Health and safety concerns surrounding the introduction of any new technologies

    Employees must be given all information that allows them to participate effectively in the consultation, including current risks and the measures to protect against and deal with them. If you already have a health & safety management system, such as the recently implemented ISO 45001, then this information (e.g. risk assessments) should be structured and readily available.

    Consultation should involve the sharing of all available knowledge on workplace health & safety, with dialogue and input from both sides. Consulting doesn’t just mean getting answers to predetermined questions - it should be an open discussion, with the freedom of employees to each be heard, suggest improvements and highlight unappreciated risks.

    For some businesses, however, direct consultation with employees is either physically difficult or otherwise undesirable. In these situations, you may wish to employ a health and safety representative - and one may even be appointed for you by a union.

    Elected health & safety reps

    If you opt to appoint a health and safety representative, they must be elected by the workforce, to ensure that they fully represent their interests. Elected health & safety reps have fewer responsibilities than union appointed reps, and act as more of a sounding board for health & safety consultation, or large-scale changes to working practices and equipment.

    An elected representative will voice the concerns of employees to the employer on a regular basis, and in the event of specific changes to working practices. They will also represent employees where required by visiting health and safety inspectors, in order to assess whether their needs and concerns are being addressed.

    The elected representative will collate and report any dangerous incidents, near misses, and potential or existing hazards reported by employees. While these should be voiced immediately, the representative will also give voice to more general or less pressing concerns around health & safety, and will play a key role in consultation around changes to working practices.

    Union health & safety reps

    It may also be the case that a health & safety rep is appointed on the workers’ behalf by a trade union, as part of a collective bargaining agreement. The two kinds of representatives are governed by two different legal regulations, and fulfil slightly different functions.

    A union appointed health & safety rep serves as both a mouthpiece for employee concerns and a safety inspector. They will take a proactive role in safety enforcement and hazard prevention, and will investigate the concerns of employees as they arrive. They will also act as a liaison with the HSE and other safety inspectors, and will be expected to attend any health & safety committee meetings.

    As an employer, you are required to provide assistance to union safety reps in order to help them carry out thorough inspections. These will occur at least once every three months, with additional inspections with any substantial changes to work practices. Union reps must be paid for the time taken to carry out their role and for any training time, although the training will usually be provided by the union.

    Why should I appoint one?

    If your employees are represented by a union, you may find that a health & safety representative is appointed for you. Otherwise, there are a number of reasons why you might opt to appoint one instead of talking directly with your workers.

    The most common reason is the scale of the business - if you are operating across a large site or multiple sites, it may be logistically difficult to consult with everyone on an individual basis. There are solutions to this - you might send out email questionnaires for example, or messages on Slack. But these ad-hoc solutions can be unreliable, and should be seen as complementary to policy decisions, rather than as a replacement for proper consultation.

    It may also be the case that your hierarchy makes it difficult to attribute the consultation. You may for instance have a wide variety of positions in the business, each with very different responsibilities and health & safety concerns. Giving each piece of feedback due weight, as well as correlating it with the conditions of that role, may be better organised by a dedicated representative.

    It may also be the case that you simply prefer, for organisational reasons, to delegate the responsibility for health & safety compliance and other matters. You may be busy and worrying that you can’t attend to everything, see everyone and make sure you’re staying compliant. This may even be true for a small business, where the business owner is already the ‘responsible person’ for health & safety compliance, and may feel weighed down by other duties.

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    While a health & safety representative isn’t always a requirement for your business - particularly if you’re a small business owner - they do provide an invaluable service. As well as alleviating the burden of responsibility for health & safety consultation, representatives ensure that your employees’ voices are being heard - keeping them happier as well as safer in the workplace.

    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • How to improve first aid in the workplace Mar 7, 2018

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    While none of us like to think about it, we are constantly at risk from any number of maladies. While most won’t come to pass, it is worth catering for every possible eventuality, and having a first aid policy that can tackle illness and injuries as they arise.

    Despite this, many small and even large businesses fail to cater adequately for first aid. Regardless of how risky your daily operations are, there are a number of steps you should and could be taking to guarantee your safety, and potentially even save lives.

    Mandatory minimums

    ‘Adequate and appropriate’ provisions, including first aid equipment, rooms and trained personnel. There are very few specific legislative requirements in regards to what you should have or in what quantity, Instead it falls to the business owner to decide what is proportionate, and to fall broadly in line with the HSE’s guidelines.

    For low hazard businesses with fewer than 25 employees, this usually takes the form of a single ‘appointed person’ to take charge in emergency situations. This person should ideally have accredited first aid training, but again, this is not a necessity.

    In addition, the HSE expects that you maintain a ‘well stocked’ first aid kit, with items including bandages, plasters, dressings, gloves and eye patches. These guidelines also apply to higher hazard businesses (e.g. engineering, food processing or manufacturing) with five or fewer employees.

    Low risk businesses with 25-50 employees should have at least one Emergency First Aid At Work (EFAW) trained first aider. High risk businesses with 5-50 employees should have a first aider trained in either First Aid At Work (FAW) or EFAW, depending on the nature of the work being carried out.

    Businesses with more than 50 employees should have a FAW trained first aider for every 100 or 50 employees, respectively. Depending on the nature and size of your business, you may be expected to have a dedicated first aid room with relevant supplies.

    You are not strictly required to accomodate members of the public, even if they regularly visit your facility. That said, the HSE does strongly advise that you factor them into your health & safety policy. This may also depend on footfall, as well as the nature of your clientele.

    First aid training

    While there is not necessarily an obligation to have a trained first aider, we strongly recommend it. Emergencies can occur regardless of the size of your workplace, or the kinds of work you engage in. Better too to overprovide with no serious injuries or illness than to have underprovided, and suddenly find that you are unequipped for an emergency.

    Having an employee on hand who can not just control the situation but also administer treatment ahead of the emergency services could be the difference between life and death. This is particularly pertinent given that ambulances are currently stretched, as well as the merging of some hospital services, meaning longer trips to A&E.

    There are a number of ways to obtain first aid training. The most common is to receive nationally recognised training from an accredited training provider. These will commonly bear the mark of Ofqual (England), the SQA (Scotland) or the Welsh Government.

    The most common forms of first aid training are the L3 QA Awards in Emergency First Aid At Work and First Aid At Work, respectively. The recommended level of training for first aid providers is Level 3, with the course depending on the nature of work in your business. Applicants are not generally required to have completed another first aid qualification before taking Level 3 training.

    Changes by the HSE in 2013 were designed to offer more flexibility for first aid training to employers. You may now also receive valid training from voluntary aid societies, individuals or enterprises acting under voluntary accreditation, and independent training providers. However, you are also now responsible for carrying out due diligence to ensure the legitimacy of their training.

    Accredited training providers avoid this process of due diligence on the part of the employer. You can choose an Ofqual or equivalent qualification safe in the knowledge that the training is valid, quality assured, and offered by qualified and competent trainers.

    Other ways to improve first aid

    While it is not a requirement, it’s strongly recommended that you designate a first aid room if you have space within your facility. This should be a first aid room only, too - we’ve seen more than a few supposed ‘first aid rooms’ that have actually been repurposed for storage, left in a poor condition, or left inaccessible when they’re needed most.

    The ideal first aid room is easily accessible from the most trafficked areas of the facility, and within relatively easy reach of the exits. The space should be bright with natural light if possible, while ensuring that the contents are well protected from the elements.

    It should be well stocked with relevant provisions, too - if you don’t know what these would be, conduct a risk assessment. Consider all of the things that could feasibly happen to employees, and look at how you could mitigate the risks. Then, in planning for the worst case scenario, include provisions to help treat resultant injuries and illness.

    One substantial provision that’s of benefit to any workplace is a defibrillator. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are now available for under £1000, and represent a potentially life saving investment. At present, just 8% of cardiac arrest victims outside of a hospital survive in the UK. Statistics show that the effective use of a defibrillator and CPR in the event of cardiac arrest can increase survival chances to as much as 74%.

    For this reason, first aid training to at least a basic level is highly beneficial for all employees, or at least a substantive proportion. One of the benefits of an AED however is that it is extremely simple to operate. While most defibrillators will offer instructions as to how to use them, AEDs operate largely automatically, administering treatment at the right time for the victim.

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    Ultimately, the best thing you can do to improve safety in your workplace is to be aware of the HSE’s recommendations, and to agitate for change. Securing first aid training and a well equipped first aid room represent the ideal scenario - but the most important step is to ensure that first aid awareness permeates your organisation, and influences decision making at the highest levels.


    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.
  • What you need to know about ISO 45001 Feb 28, 2018

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    After five years of deliberation involving members from hundreds of countries, the latest occupational health & safety (OHS) framework, ISO 45001, has finally been approved. A three-year transition period will be enacted from March, allowing for businesses with and without older frameworks to register and migrate to the new standard.

    For those businesses currently using the British OHSAS 18001 standard - or those who have less understanding of the ISO standards and certification process - this may all be a bit baffling. Here then is a simple breakdown of the changes implemented by the switch to ISO 45001.


    What are ISO standards?

    ISO 45001 has been drafted by the International Organisation For Standardisation (ISO). ISO standards are designed to provide shared policy frameworks to organisations, helping them improve their own operational efficiency and efficacy in a number of different areas.

    Businesses around the globe use ISO standards to implement frameworks for quality control, information security, safety, energy efficiency and more. They are often implemented to satisfy tenders and acquire new supply chains, and are a requisite of many contracts.

    To be fully compliant with ISO standards, you have to gain certification. Gaining ISO certification ensures that your business is operating to certain well defined, globally relevant and extensively researched standards, helping you to succeed and to build trust with other businesses.


    What is ISO 45001?

    ISO 45001 is the first global OHS standard for organisations, drafted and implemented by the ISO after five years of discussion. It provides a universal framework - in other words, a set of rules and instructions - for all businesses concerned with their own occupational health & safety.

    As with most ISO standards, ISO 45001 can be implemented by businesses of any size, and ISO encourages all businesses to do so. It lays out a modern, responsive set of health & safety policies and approaches, designed to integrate into the core of the business’ objectives and meld with other standards.

    ISO 45001 is the first ever global safety standard, and has been specifically to supplant a number of local standards. For UK businesses, this means that it will replace the popular current standard, OHSAS 18001. Businesses currently applying this standard may require assistance to migrate to the new standard and to retrain employees.


    What does ISO 45001 change?

    ISO 45001 is designed to modernise a business’ approach to occupational health & safety, putting it at the core of overarching policy decisions. It utilises the Annex SL guideline to help integrate OHS with other standards, including quality and environmental management.

    ISO 45001 is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) model, simplifying risk planning and accentuating the importance of reporting and minimising risks. It also shifts focus slightly to grant more importance to long term health issues, rather than more evident short term injuries.

    Worker wellness and wellbeing are given much more prominence as a key element of health & safety management. The delegation of OHS is also disincentivised, with C-suite and managers encouraged to take on responsibility for health & safety and integrate it into their business plans.

    Workers are also more involved with health & safety under ISO 45001. Workers and their representatives are actively involved in consultation and reporting, are engaged in controlling risks, and are given a more substantial role in dictating company policy on health & safety.

    The rights of workers have also been enhanced in the new framework. This includes the right of workers to identify risks and remove themselves from the situation without penalty, before reporting said risk to the organisation. The obligations of organisations to provide a safe working environment have also been enhanced.

    Finally, the burden of responsibility when it comes to breaches of H&S laws and guidelines has been clarified. This comes into particular focus with outsourcing, procurement and contractors, where the organisation should now be expected to demonstrate the control of risk.

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    ISO 45001 is a rigorous but sensible standard, and its application has been hard fought. It is also a momentous occasion, however, marking the first time any such OHS standard has been accepted and applied globally. Safer businesses tend to be happier and more effective businesses, and the worldwide uptake of ISO 45001 should ultimately be good news for everyone.


    Lee Sadd is a senior trainer at health & safety consultant and training provider SAMS Ltd. SAMS is a leading provider of online safety courses and classroom courses in the Kent area, as well as offering business advisory services and event management solutions around the UK.