Health & safety issues to be aware of when starting your business

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There are many challenges to starting a new business, from securing initial funding to finding your first office and recruiting your team. When it comes to recruiting employees, business owners have a duty of care to those staff members when they are travelling into a workplace environment such as an office, shop, or factory, to carry out their role. If you are in the process of recruiting your first full-time employees, who will be based at a location outside of their own home, you need to ensure that you are following healthy & safety guidelines relevant to the country you are based in.

“In recent years we’ve seen more cases involving smaller businesses and start-ups violating health & safety regulations and opening themselves up to expensive litigation proceedings” says John McCarthy, a specialist personal injury lawyer at McCarthy & Co. “Failure to follow the relevant health & safety legislation can be very costly both financially and in terms of reputation damage for businesses that are successfully sued by employees” says John.

So, if you are starting a new business and you’re in the process of recruiting staff to work at your premises, what can you do to ensure you meet and exceed healthy & safety guidelines?

Ensure that you are familiar with the guidelines relevant to the locations of your business premises

Legislation around health & safety is different in every country. In the UK, for example, it falls under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. In the USA, employers need to be aware of the laws and regulations pertaining to Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Whilst in Canada, employers should start by familiarising themselves with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s guidelines. So, a key step to meeting health & safety requirements is in understanding the law and your responsibilities for all workplaces that you operate in every country where you employ staff.

Understand your responsibilities as an employer

It’s not acceptable to simply familiarise yourself with the legislation relating to your workplaces, you must also understand what your responsibilities and are and take action to meet them. So, for example, in the UK it is a legal requirement to tell your employees about the risks to their health & safety presented by their proposed working environment. You must inform them about what you have done to protect their health & safety and you must provide adequate protection for staff working in challenging or hazardous environments. You must carry out risk assessments, as well as train and inform staff on how to work safely and avoid risks to their health.

Take steps to prevent common types of accidents in the workplace

According to the HSE, 33% of accidents in the workplace in UK based organisations are related to slips, trips, and falls. These sorts of accidents can easily be prevented by clearly signposting any areas of the work environment where such an event may occur. Scheduling regular safety inspections will also reduce the likelihood of these sorts of accidents occurring by enabling you to update your team on new developments or issues they need to be aware of. Providing regular training and support to staff can also help to avoid other common types of accidents such as injuries related to moving heavy objects, injuries sustained by collisions with an object or illnesses caused by exposure to dangerous chemicals or substances.

Minimise workplace stress and anxiety

Accidents at work can often occur when staff members are overworked, stressed, poorly remunerated or unhappy in the work environment. Take whatever steps you possibly can to reduce workplace stress and anxiety by listening to your employee’s concerns, taking onboard their feedback, and putting in place positive changes. This could involve introducing a workplace well-being programme, allowing employees to take longer breaks, providing relaxing activities that staff can undertake during breaks and setting realistic productivity targets.

Avoid potential costly personal injury litigation

Any business owners looking to take on full-time staff for the first time need to both familiarise themselves with health & safety legislation then ensure that their work environments exceed those guidelines. Not doing so could potentially result in employees bringing costly personal injury claims that cause immense reputational damage.