Not many business owners are experts in health and safety law and its application, which is why many employers turn to the professionals for advice.
If you’re not clear on your responsibilities or how to approach a health and safety task, access to a competent health and safety adviser can make all the difference and set you on the right track.
Do you know, for example, how to create a Health & Safety Policy? Do you understand the key steps of a risk assessment? Do you have safe systems of work in place for storing and handling chemicals, working at height, or conducting manual handling tasks? If not, you’re not alone, but you may be leaving employees exposed to harm, and yourself exposed to legal risk.
Why it makes sense to receive health and safety advice
When it comes to managing your health and safety duties, there are compelling moral, legal and business reasons why it makes sense to lean on a professional.
The moral case
Access to a qualified health and safety adviser is the best way to keep your staff, clients and visitors safe. Tragically, according to the HSE’s annual fatalities report, 147 workers were killed in Great Britain in 2018/19. As an employer, you have a moral responsibility to ensure that your employees return home safely at the end of the working day and that those who come into contact with your business aren’t put at risk.
The legal case
As an employer, you have a legal duty under the to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees and other people who might be affected by your activities. The law requires you to do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this. Support from an experienced health and safety adviser will help you to determine what steps are reasonable to take and keep your business compliant with all relevant legislation in order to avoid the rising costs of enforcement and even prosecution.
The business case
Health and safety is often seen as something that sits on the outside of your core business objectives. However, to treat it as a separate entity makes little sense, as it’s a well-known fact that health and safety performance has an impact on business performance. For example, a serious accident could have a profoundly negative impact on annual profitability, among other metrics. Receiving commercial health and safety advice will help you to make smart decisions, keep health and safety performance high, and ultimately save you time and money.
Maintaining a safe environment also lowers staff turnover, improves efficiency, and keeps insurance costs down.
The cost of going it alone
You might think that managing health and safety yourself will save your business money; however, with rising health and safety fines and increased Fee for Intervention charges, the cost of health and safety breaches could dramatically impact your bottom line. You may also face prosecution, which incurs legal fees and compensation.
The average fine for breach of health and safety law last year was £147,000 with total fines exceeding £72 million. The average cost of defending a health and safety prosecution is £15,000.
Even if your business can afford such significant financial penalties, the damage to your reputation can be irreparable. Months, even years, after the incident, it could be harder to recruit staff and convince them they’ll be working in a safe environment.
At Ellis Whittam, owing to the quality of our advice, support and safety management systems, we reduce the risk of prosecution by c.50% and cut the cost of any fine imposed by more than 85%.
Our Legal Expenses Insurance also covers the cost of defending health and safety prosecutions.
Do I need to have health and safety advice for my business?
By law, Every organisation must have access to help from “competent persons” to enable it to meet the requirements of health and safety legislation. It could be you, an appropriate member of staff, or a third party.
The HSE advises that to be considered competent, the individual you appoint should have “sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly” and advises that employers who aren’t confident in their ability to manage health and safety internally should seek support from an external health and safety professional.
At Ellis Whittam, we’re so confident in the expertise of our consultants and the strength of our health and safety advice for businesses that we’ll even take on the role of one of your legally required competent persons for you.
What is a health and safety adviser?
The role of a health and safety adviser is to help businesses and other organisations develop, maintain and uphold health and safety standards in accordance with health and safety legislation. Fundamentally, a health and safety adviser’s job is to help you to prevent work-related accidents, injuries and ill health, which they do by working with you to create robust and legally-compliant policies and procedures and making sure you and your employees put them into practice.
However, not all health and safety advisers offer the same level of support. Some offer assistance over the phone, some charge by the hour, and some (like us) offer a fixed-fee Health & Safety service that offers a complete solution to all your health and safety management needs.
How can a health and safety adviser help me?
No organisation is exempt from abiding by health and safety law, but getting your head around what it all means can feel like an impossible task.
Having access to a named Health & Safety Consultant who not only knows what they’re talking about but also understands your business, your objectives, your challenges and how you operate can transform your approach to health and safety management.
Being able to call on a professional for health and safety advice means:
- You can receive immediate clarification on any health and safety grey areas;
- You can get answers to health and safety queries quickly, at any time, from a source you can trust;
- You can identify problems before they get worse and prevent costly mistakes;
- You have the reassurance that you’re approaching situations correctly;
- You have help turning complex legislation into simple, workable solutions;
- You can be sure that the decisions you make are reasonable, proportionate and in your best interests; and
- You can free up time to focus on your key objectives, safe in the knowledge that your compliance is taken care of.
In short, receiving tailored, reliable health and safety advice will allow you to identify and control risk, meet your legal responsibilities, and approach health and safety tasks more confidently.
Outsourced health and safety advice you can trust
If you don’t have the time, knowledge or confidence to manage health and safety yourself, outsourcing your compliance to a health and safety company will elevate your current practices and take the pressure off.
Ellis Whittam’s network of professionally qualified Health & Safety Consultants have over 350 years’ combined experience of keeping clients safe. As part of our unlimited, fixed-fee service, you will have access to a named consultant, who will:
- Provide both onsite support and 24/7 advice over the phone to help you find workable, commercial solutions to health and safety problems and overcome challenges quickly;
- Create a Health & Safety Policy to keep you compliant, accompanied by a Health & Safety Handbook containing important rules and guidance for employees;
- Conduct a General Risk Assessment of your premises to identify any areas of non-compliance and the steps that need to be taken; and
- Act as one of your legally-required competent persons to help you meet the requirements of health and safety legislation and keep you one step ahead.
To supplement our consultancy support and advice line, our fixed-fee service also gives you access to:
- Our award-winning Health & Safety Software, which gives you the tools to dynamically manage risk in-house, automates health and safety tasks, and tells you when action is needed;
- Our e-Learning facility, which allows you to allocate role-specific training, monitor progress, amend pass rates to suit your needs, and run reports; and
- Our Health & Safety and Commercial Legal Knowledge Hubs, where you can find expert-created guidance notes and downloadable document templates to help you save valuable time and make smart, informed decisions.
All of these elements combined will change the way you manage your business and enable you to effectively demonstrate compliance.
Thornbury Town Clerk
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Health and Safety Guides
What does the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 cover?
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974 is the main piece of legislation that sets out the laws regarding occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It’s a lengthy 121-page document that covers everything from keeping your staff safe to protecting the general public.
To meet its requirements, you must ensure:
- The workplace is safe, with access to first aid and welfare;
- Staff have all the safety equipment they need for noise, fumes, and personal safety;
- Equipment is safe to use and staff are trained to use it; and
- There’s an accessible Health & Safety Policy all employees can read.
What happens if a health and safety inspector discovers a breach?
If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to identify the breach and help you to put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action and is called Fee for Intervention (FFI) – an hourly charge which has recently increased from £129 to £154 per hour.
A material breach occurs when the HSE issues a notification of contravention, an improvement or prohibition notice, or a prosecution.