How to Comply with Small Business Health and Safety Law

caution wet floor sign
Image by Uwe Strasser / Flickr
From cash flow to office rental, there’s a lot to take into consideration if you’re growing your business. One of the things that can get overlooked is health and safety. However if you’re putting more employees on the payroll you need to think about how to look after their well-being. You may also be bringing in more equipment, processes or substances as your business expands that could lead to new hazards.

Here are some of the basic steps you need to consider to make sure your business complies with health and safety law and your employees are safe and happy.

Make sure there is someone to manage health and safety
You should consider appointing someone responsible to help you manage your business’s health and safety duties. As a small business you may not want to employ someone outside your business especially for this role – you could appoint yourself or one of your workers. The important thing is to have someone to take responsibility for this area of your business who gets trained in managing this.

Do a risk assessment
You need to sensibly identify the risks in your workplace and then identify a measure to control the risk. Walk around your workplace and note down anything that is a hazard – this is something that could cause harm. Consider how serious the harm could be, and what should be done to prevent or control it. You should also consult with your employees on what they think could be hazardous and the best ways to provide them with information and training on health and safety and particular risks in their jobs. There are tools online to help you do this.

Write a health and safety policy
Once you’ve identified these risks, make sure you put the appropriate measure in place. Keep this all written down and include it with a health and safety policy. If you have five or more employees you must have a written policy but it is worth having one even if you employ fewer than 5 workers. The Health and Safety Executive provides a template you could use.

Provide the right facilities
Don’t forget that health and safety covers more than just hazardous risks, like avoiding accidents if you use heavy machinery. Even if your workplace is an office without any obvious safety risks, you are still obligated to provide the right facilities for your employees’ welfare.

There are basic things to consider like toilets with hand basins, soap and towels/hand-dryer. You also need to provide drinking water, somewhere to rest and places to eat or take breaks. You should also make sure there’s a reasonable working temperature and the workplace gets good ventilation and lighting.

Office-based health and safety
If you are office-based you’ve got to remember to help employees who use DSE or VDU – display screen equipment or visual display units. In simple language these are computers! Computer equipment and work stations are associated with fatigue, migraines, eyestrain and neck, shoulder and back pain.

You need to assess VDU workstations and if you have workers who habitually use a VDU as part of their everyday work you must provide a full eye test by an optician and glasses if they are required for VDU use. Consider signing up to a corporate eyecare scheme – this will let you administer VDU vouchers easily.

All in all, taking care of health and safety makes good business sense. You’ll reduce absence and sick leave, retain staff, boost productivity and save your insurance premiums. These are all important things to consider for a growing business.

About the Author: Penelope Byrd is a freelance journalist with experience writing on small business and health and safety. She is currently a contributing editor to, a blog on health and safety covering specific industries and workplace safety topics such as CCTV, corporate eyecare and fire extinguisher requirements.