We use cookies to help us provide you with the best experience, improve and tailor our services, and carry out our marketing activities. For more information, including how to manage your cookie settings, see our privacy notice.


Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Covid-19 update: Government guidance changed on 19 July 2021 - we're currently updating our information in response to this. In the meantime, visit the government's guidance on lifting restrictions.

Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

How to manage health and safety in small and medium voluntary organisations

Safety at work is a high priority for every organisation, big or small. Health and safety in the workplace is often regarded as an operational concern, but it requires focus from governance, leadership and management to ensure it is adequately resourced and lawfully  implemented. This guide explains how to manage health and safety without any in house, dedicated health and safety staff.

Things you'll need

  • A health and safety policy (if you have one currently)
  • Health and safety risk assessments (if you have any currently)
  • Health and safety training records (if you have any currently)
  • Other health and safety documentation or reports currently available (eg recent accident reports, incident reports, records of fire alarm testing, practice evacuations etc).

Establishing responsibility

The law requires that every organisation appoints someone ’competent’ to deliver its health and safety duties. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety in an organisation.

Depending on the size of the organisation, the competent person could be:

  • A member of the board of trustees. This is often the case in small organisations where health and safety is ultimately the responsibility of the charity trustees or the legal directors or owners. 
  •  The most senior paid employee. Where applicable, this responsibility should be included in their job description. Alternatively the senior employee should be responsible for managing the health and safety officer.
  • An external supplier appointed by the board or the person given responsibility for health and safety may decide to appoint as the competent person. The Occupational Safety and Health Consultant's Register provides an up-to-date list of health and safety advisers who have a recognised qualification. Effective procurement will be essential, to ensure both clarity of expectations and deliverables plus value for money.
  • An internal person may need training to develop an up-to-date knowledge of health and safety, in both the short and long term. The competent person should then deliver a simple H&S management system in line with BS standards OHSAS 18001: 2007 (as per the next steps in this guide).


The competent person should assess the initial level of compliance and safe working practice compared to where the organisation needs to be. Carrying out a health and safety audit is the best way to identify the gaps. NCVO members can find a high-level checklist here.

Next a timed health and safety plan can be drawn up.

The plan should state:

  • what the organisation wants to achieve
  • who will be responsible for what
  • how the aims will be reached
  • how success will be measured.

The priority will be to address minimum compliance first and then to move onto measures that will maintain and improve health and safety over time.

  • You will need to decide and introduce how the organisation will measure health and safety performance. At a minimum, look at accident figures: reporting on incidents and ‘near misses’ offers a further insight into the true level of safety in the organisation.
  • Consideration must be given to fire and other emergencies and it will be essential to understand the responsibilities of any landlord (where premises are leased) and
    to ensure these are fulfilled. In a shared workplace, plans must be coordinated between all users.
  • If there are five or more employees, you need a written health and safety policy and the above information should be included within it. NCVO members can download an example health and safety policy and risk assessment template from the tools and resources section.
  • Most importantly, commit to and provide resources for a regular review and update of the plan and policy to accommodate any changes in the organisation and in legislation.




The organisation’s risk profile must be identified – this sets out the nature and level of threats created by the organisation’s premises, activities, machinery and equipment and chemicals and substances.
The competent person should assess the risks by:

  • identifying what might or should cause harm in the organisation’s operations
  • who it might or should harm and how
  • and what they will do to manage the risk.

Involve workers in this exercise so that everyone is clear on what is needed and can discuss issues. This encourages and develops positive attitudes and behaviours.

Priorities can then be determined for each area of risk. The employer must provide adequate resources, including competent advice where needed.

The competent person should help managers to:

  •  decide and act on the preventive and protective measures needed in each area
  • ensure that the right tools and equipment are provided for each role and that they are properly maintained
  • train and instruct staff, ensuring everyone is competent to carry out their work
  •  supervise staff to make sure that arrangements are followed.


The board and the competent person should ensure that the health and safety plan has been implemented – paperwork on its own is not a good performance measure.

To achieve this the person responsible for health and safety should:

  • monitor and report on the performance measures identified in step 2 above 
  • advise on what information is monitored and what is reported to managers, senior managers and the board, so that each level in the organisation can understand how progress is being made. 

The information reported should enable you to assess how well the risks are being controlled and if the organisation is achieving its aims.

In some circumstances, a formal audit may be useful. The causes of accidents, incidents or near misses should always be investigated.



It is important that organisations review their health and safety performance.

This provides insight into whether the essential health and safety principles – effective leadership and management, competence, worker consultation and involvement – have been embedded in the organisation. The organisation can assess whether its system is effective in managing risk and protecting people. Carrying out reviews will confirm whether the health and safety arrangements still make sense.

For example, the competent person will be able to:

  • check the validity of the health and safety policy
  • ensure the system in place for managing health and safety is effective. 

A review will enable an organisation to see what has changed about the health and safety environment in its business. This allows it to stop doing things that are no longer necessary and to respond to new risks and communicate health and safety successes.

The most important aspect of reviewing is that it closes the loop. The outcomes of the review become what the organisation plans to do next with health and safety.

Further information

This guide was supplied by Solutions4WeightLoss and Roots HR, who provide a full range of health and safety services, from planning through to review.



Page last edited Sep 14, 2017 History

Help us to improve this page – give us feedback.