An Introduction to Health & Safety for Start-Ups

Your start-up is in that early growth stage, it’s going from strength to strength and you’re caught up in a whirlwind of decision making and meetings with potential clients and investors.

It’s probably fair to say that health and safety isn’t at the forefront of your mind.

The Cost of Compliance

Time spent isn’t the only burden to your start-up when implementing H&S processes – it may also be necessary to buy insurance, training, software and consultancy to ensure you meet your legal obligations and keep your staff safe. In the UK in 2016 the average small business (0-49 employees) spent around £6000 on health and safety.

But to put that in perspective, the average fine levied for a breach of health and safety regulations was in excess of £115,000.

Once you factor in the reputational damage that a such a fine could inflict on your business, £6000 begins to sound quite reasonable.

Start-Up as You Mean to Go On

If you start thinking about health and safety early on in your journey as a business owner, you’re much more likely to see the benefits – and not only from a financial perspective.

While your workforce may be small, your people still need to be kept safe from harm. Employees who feel that their wellbeing is being prioritised by their employer are likely to perform better than those who feel neglected. Staff who feel valued are also less likely to take time off, which is good for productivity and your bottom line.

But don’t only focus on the potential for disaster.

While it’s important to prevent dramatic H&S events from taking place in your workplace, also consider things like the use of display screens, manual handling and the exposure of your staff to cleaning chemicals.

Assess the Risk

It’s critical that you carry out a comprehensive assessment of the risks faced by your team, not only in the workplace but anywhere that they’re conducting business on your behalf.

Follow these steps to conduct a successful risk assessment:

  1. Identify any hazards.
  2. Decide who could be harmed and how.
  3. Assess the risks and decide how to mitigate.
  4. Record your findings and implement any necessary changes.
  5. Review your risk assessment.

Some of the hazards you may need to think about include:

  • the risk of fire in the workplace;
  • trips, slips and falls from height;
  • Legionella and food safety issues;
  • misuse of display screen equipment;
  • poor manual handling technique; and
  • workplace stress.

Training Matters

One of the most effective ways to ensure the safety of your staff is to inform them of the risks inherent in their workplace and arm them with the information they need to mitigate those risks.

Training can be conducted on screen or in practical sessions, with an assessment carried out to determine each staff members’ level of understanding. If a risk assessment is updated, staff should be notified and refresher training offered. Training records should be kept so that you’re able to prove your compliance to the auditor.

Streamline Your Compliance

If after reading the above you still feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do to keep your staff safe and ensure compliance, there are ways you can steamline the process.

Health and safety software can help alleviate the time burden associated with many of the tasks you’ll need to carry out – things like the issuing of risk assessments, the recording of incidents and the tracking of e-learning course completion, for example.

Of course, software isn’t a panacea – what’s most important is that you make a commitment to the safety of your staff and to meeting your legal obligations, but as a leader of a fast-growing start-up you’ll appreciate that software can help improve almost any business workflow.