Now’s the time to take a fresh look at workplace safety - Palmers Solicitors

Now’s the time to take a fresh look at workplace safety

Now’s the time to take a fresh look at workplace safety

If you’re an employer, you have various legal obligations when it comes to protecting the health and safety of your employees, customers and visitors.

Any failure to meet these obligations could lead to prosecution, civil claims, disruption and reputational damage.

Here, Samantha Randall, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in employment law, takes a look at the steps businesses can take to make sure health and safety obligations are being met:

Go beyond the obvious when risk assessing

It is important to carry out regular risk assessments of your premises to identify risks and to set out the measures you are taking to mitigate those risks.

As well as obvious risks, such as objects or equipment that could cause traumatic injuries, you should also look out for things like the risk of back injuries from poorly adjusted computer workstations.

Similarly, it is easy to focus risk assessments on physical injuries, but you should also take mental health into account. This can be more challenging than assessing physical risks but would typically include risks such as stress.

Don’t forget remote workers

It could be easy to overlook people working from home in your risk assessments, especially if this is a new development for your business since the pandemic.

However, it is important to remember that the same health and safety obligations apply to staff working remotely as to those working on site.

The two most common risks remote workers are likely to face are a lack of an appropriate space in which to work and the mental health impacts of stress and isolation.

Empower anyone to speak out over health and safety issues

Increasingly, firms working in high-risk sectors such as construction are putting in place policies to ensure that any member of staff, irrespective of their seniority, can speak out where there is a health and safety issue.

Policies along these lines were first developed in aviation before being adopted in medicine, where nurses have been empowered to speak out when surgeons have made errors. They are now being adopted more widely in safety-critical sectors.

No matter how open and receptive to the feedback you are as an employer, there remains a wider cultural norm that junior members of staff do not speak out. That means there is a risk that junior members of staff could pick up on a safety risk but feel unable to speak out, whether or not that fear is justified.

Indeed, these employees are more likely than others to be working at the front line and therefore to be in a position to pick up on risks.

By making it clear that anyone can raise health and safety matters without detriment to themselves, you stand a better chance of tackling issues before they arise.

Health and safety obligations change regularly and identifying issues is not always easy. That means it is important to review your policies periodically and when you have significant changes in working arrangements or equipment.

For help and advice with all aspects of employment law, please get in touch with us.