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Health and safety

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The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a general duty on you as employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and others who may be affected by the actions of your charity, as far as is reasonably practical.

Ensuring health and safety at work need not be complicated. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) comments that:

The approach you take should be proportionate to the size of your business and the nature of your business activity. For most small, low-risk businesses the steps you need to take are straightforward. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your risk assessment or your health and safety policy

– from Health and safety made simple, at hse.gov.uk.

Competent person

The law requires that every organisation appoints someone ‘competent’ to deliver its health and safety duties.

This can be someone in your charity, especially if your operations are low risk. Alternatively, you can appoint an external person to fulfil this function. See the HSE's guide on getting competent advice for further information.

Health and safety policy

From the point where you have five or more employees, you are legally obliged to have a health and safety policy. The policy must be brought to the attention of all employees and be easily accessible. You can download a sample policy from the HSE website.

NCVO members can download a sample policy as well as a risk assessment template.

Risk assessments

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 say that employers must undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks to both employees and others who may be affected by their work activities. A risk assessment is a vigilant examination of what could cause harm to people so that you can assess if you need to take further precautions.

If you employ five or more people, you should record the significant findings of your risk assessments.

It is also a legal requirement for you to undertake special risk assessments on young persons (anyone under 18) and any woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding.

You can download information about risk assessments and a template risk assessment form, from the HSE website.

Consult with your employees about health and safety matters

If you have a recognised trade union, then you must consult with the safety representatives appointed by the union. If the trade union requests it, you must set up a safety committee.

If there is no recognised trade union, you can consult with employees either individually or via representatives.

Any representatives must be given reasonable training, time off with pay, facilities and help to enable to them to undertake their role.

See the HSE guidance on consulting your employees for further information.

Provide training and information

Health and safety training should cover matters relevant to your organisation:

  • Hazards and risks staff or other workers may face, if any
  • Measures in place to deal with those hazards and risks, if necessary
  • How to follow any emergency procedures

You are advised to keep records of training. See the HSE guidance on providing training and information for further information.

Workplace facilities

You must provide certain facilities such as toilets, soap and washbasins, drinking water and appropriate lighting and ventilation. See the HSE guidance on providing the right workplace facilities for further information.

First aid, accidents and ill-health

Provide first aid facilities

As a minimum, you must have:

  • a suitably stocked first-aid box
  • an appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements
  • information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements.

Depending on your workplace, you may need more than this. See the HSE guidance on first aid for further information.

Keep an accident book

In addition to the reporting requirements above, which apply to all employers, you must also provide an accident book, if you employ ten or more people or if your premises is a factory.

Accident records must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and you must therefore not allow personal details and information to be seen by anyone reading or making an entry in an accident book. A way of doing this is to have tear-out pages. Get an accident book from the HSE.

Report certain injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), you must report certain work-related health and safety incidents.

See the HSE guidance on RIDDOR for more information on accidents you must report.

Display the health and safety law poster

The law says that if you employ anyone, a Health and Safety Law poster must be displayed at all times. Download a health and safety law poster

Employer’s liability insurance

In most cases, you must have employer’s liability insurance. Find out how to get insurance

Ensure minimum standards for the use of machines and equipment

Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, you must ensure minimum standards for the use of machines and equipment with regard to suitability, maintenance and inspection.

Further, you must ensure that employees have received sufficient information, instruction and training before using any equipment and that only authorised people are allowed to use the equipment.

You must ensure that guards or covers intended to protect against contact with dangerous parts are fitted at all times.

See the HSE guidance on these regulations

Manual handling

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 state that, wherever possible, you should aim to avoid the need for employees to undertake manual handling (lifting).

If manual handling cannot be avoided, then the operations must be assessed and risks of injury eliminated or reduced by using mechanical means wherever practicable. Failing this, the risk assessment should identify other options such as redesign of task/layout, limiting size of loads, team lifting or training in safe lifting techniques.

Read the HSE information on manual handling

Provide protective clothing/ equipment (PPE)

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 state that you must provide protective clothing or equipment to control those health and safety risks that cannot be adequately controlled by other means or as a backup to other control measures. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must always be considered a last resort.

You must assess and select suitable equipment taking into account the individual, compatibility with other PPE, comfort and any other additional risks the PPE may introduce.

You must provide PPE free of charge and provide information, instruction and training in the use, maintenance and storage of PPE.

See the HSE guidance on PPE

Ensure safe use of VDUs

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
introduced measures to prevent repetitive strain injury, musculo-skeletal disorders, fatigue and eye problems when using any display screen equipment (DSE) such as computers.  

You must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of each workstation and surrounding work environment, together with any specific needs of the individual, to identify any risks. The assessment will highlight any areas where change may be needed.

You must also give free eyesight tests on request, ensure that VDU operators have sufficient breaks from using the equipment and provide health and safety information about the hazards and safe use of the equipment to each VDU operator.

Download the HSE guide to working with display screen equipment (pdf, 255KB)

Hazardous substances

You are required to carry out risk assessments in respect of the handling, storage and use of hazardous substances as required by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2005.

In the first instance, you must establish whether a substance is hazardous by looking at the label or obtaining the safety data sheet for the substance.

The COSHH assessment will establish: who might be affected by the substance and how; the level of risk; and the required control measures necessary to eliminate or reduce the level of risk.

The safety data sheet must be retained and be accessible in an emergency.

See the HSE information on COSHH basics

Assess risks relating to electricity

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 place a duty on employers to control risks associated with the use of electricity in their premises. This includes fixed installations and portable appliances such as heaters, kettles and microwaves.

You must ensure that electrical equipment is suitable for the task, regularly inspected and properly maintained. Steps should be taken to avoid electrical overloading that can lead to fires.

All electrical work in the premises must only be undertaken by a competent person.

Read the HSE guide to electrical safety at work

Assess fire risks

The onus is on the employer or person in control of the premises to undertake a fire risk assessment.

A responsible person with limited formal training or experience should be able to carry out a fire risk assessment. They should understand the relevant risks people may be exposed to and be able to identify the general fire precautions that need to be taken.

Read the HSE guide to fire safety

Lone workers

You should think about safety if your workers are working alone. Download the HSE guidance on working alone (pdf, 169KB).

Volunteers and others

Don’t forget that good practice in respect of health and safety should be considered for volunteers and self-employed people as well as employees.

Further information

Page last edited Jun 28, 2018

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