Sun, Oct

Better safe than sorry

Phil Thompson, head of BPIF Business, looks at health and safety compliance.

Results from recent research show that health and safety is the third biggest source of small firms' compliance expenditure, after tax matters and employment law. But the real cost is not just financial; at seven hours a month it is the second largest consumer of time after employment law. And companies are now spending more on external specialists to help them cope.

Clarifying health and safety rules to staff and making them more responsible for their own safety can really help however. With the promotion of this responsibility, further improvements with regards to the health and safety culture within the business should also be evident. And there are some standard areas that a company should constantly look to improve. These will be the basis to good industry practice and will ensure at least the minimum requirements of health and safety.

Have a written policy

If you employ five or more you should have a written health and safety policy statement. This should be supported by an arrangements document that covers roles and responsibilities of managers, supervisors and general staff. The document must also provide clear information on how the business is going to manage its operational risks, such as undertaking of workplace risk assessments, arrangements for the consultation with staff over safety matters and who is responsible for reporting RIDDOR incidents to the regulator, if required.

Risk Assessments

You are required to record the findings of risk assessments if you employ five or more staff.  However, how can you demonstrate compliance if there is no record of the assessment when employing less than five.  Good practice is to record them, but most importantly communicate the finders of those assessments. Remember, risk assessment documents are a legal working document. First up communicated to those involved in the task, but these need to be accessible and so should be placed by machinery and attached to the staff notice board. 


If you have bought a new machine and it shows CE Markings it does not mean that it is safe and poses no risk to operatives. The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations, which covers the CE marking including the Essential Health and Safety Requirements, for manufactures to work to in controlling hazards, does not dovetail into the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), which is aimed at the employer. You will need to undertake a PUWER risk assessment for the safe setting, use, cleaning and maintenance tasks, as all of these can present certain risks, especially when carrying out some sort of intervention during a missfeed or blockage.

Slips, trips and falls

These continue to be the biggest causes of workplace accidents. But it’s also one of the areas that can be addressed most easily. It sounds obvious, but remember, that walkways and work areas should be clearly identified by painted floors and defined work and storage areas for equipment. Staff should also be provided with a good level of cleaning equipment and with sufficient bins for waste, whether for recycling or general waste. All spillages should be dealt with immediately and therefore, a suitable number of spill kits should be positioned at strategic points within the workplace.


This is still an issue in the printing industry yet there are simple and practicable control measures you can introduce to mitigate the risk of an operative developing dermatitis.  The COSHH assessment should identify the correct type of glove an employee should wear for handling a particular substance. One key control measure would be training on good hand hygiene and correct use of PPG. As an employer you will need to arrange skin checks of the relevant operative’s fingers, hands and forearms. This could be carried out once every six months supported by a questionnaire form.


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