How to Perform a Health & Safety Benchmark

How to Perform a Health & Safety Benchmark

Many aspects of business are continually assessed in order to facilitate improvement and progress. However, this doesn’t universally apply and a specific area which is often overlooked is health and safety. This can be due to a variety of issues but often it’s because it can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of health and safety and therefore difficult to judge whether improvements are required. One way in which to tackle this problem is by conducting a safety benchmark, which is a method of analysis which provides useful information on a single aspect and therefore the overall state of health and safety within a company.

The benchmarking process involves the pairing of the business in question with a partner which is usually a similar company, this is known as external benchmarking. Internal benchmarking describes the same process but the company is paired with a partner from within this same organisation but from a different location. Many larger businesses will utilise both external and internal benchmarking methods in order to gain a more accurate result.

Health and safety covers a large range of topics so benchmarking usually zeroes in on a single issue on which to focus on. Normally this will be a particularly pertinent issue which demands urgent attention. A small benchmarking team can be formed with employees from different levels of the company, including managers, health and safety specialists and of course someone from the partnering business.

The next stage involves the company assessing its current situation, what’s working, what isn’t and how it’s affecting their overall health and safety. The benchmark team can and should utilise different types of information, including qualitative and quantitative data. They can also employ research methods such as questionnaires or even short interviews with staff. Special attention should also be paid to regulations.

A partner is then chosen and both organisations compare the information they have gathered. With an understanding of each other’s practices and policies, both partners can ascertain how well their health and safety issue faired against the other. This allows both businesses to gain a much better understanding of the problem in question and therefore they can develop an action plan in order to rectify any issues which may have arisen. It is worth pointing out that this exchange of information should be respectful of confidentially.

A specific individual or team of people should be given the task of implementing this action plan. The HSE have provided advice on implementation in the form of a pneumonic. ‘SMARTT’ which stands for Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Trackable and Timebound. Contact between the partner companies should be maintained throughout this process and the overall implementation should be continually monitored. It is also worth noting that health and safety legislation is often in flux and so this should be kept in mind at all times and any changes within the law should be immediately represented within the action plan.

Health and safety can be a particularly troublesome area but many companies are adapting their strategies in order to gain a better understanding of the issue. This is particularly encouraging when compared with past approaches but it may just be that no single measure can provide a complete picture. In this instance it could be that a more multidimensional approach is required that utilises a variety of different methods.

How to Spot Safety Risks

How to Spot Safety Risks

Safety risks are present in virtually every business setting. The process of implementing a risk assessment involves the identification of hazards and the introduction of control measures to negate these hazards. In order to create a safe and secure workplace each and every significant risk should be dealt with and this requires a comprehensive approach.

Inspection

One of the first steps to identifying potential risks within your business is to simply look for them. Take a walk around your workplace and make an effort to be mindful of any and all potential hazards. Try this routine at different times of the day or week to see if anything changes as this could affect the overall safety of your business. After all, a business environment can be completely different from one day to the next and this should be factored into your overall assessment.

Communication

As well as conducting your own investigation it is imperative that you collaborate with employees, or their representatives. Your employees are working within your business each and every day and are likely to have an understanding of the risks involved. Discuss the assessment process with your employees and ask for their opinions on any of the risks you have identified or any you may have missed.

It can also be useful to reach out to external organisations for advice. If you have any machinery or equipment within your workplace it may be an idea to contact the manufacturers or check the manuals for guidance. You can even get in touch with occupational safety organisations for more general guidance.

Expectation

Identifying the risks within your business includes the consideration of unexpected events which could potentially happen. These can include anything from a faulty equipment to a fire. This allows employers to plan for every eventuality and therefore safeguards everyone within the working environment, including employees and members of the public.

Although completely routine, some employers fail to think about employees who work non-regular hours, such as cleaners or maintenance staff. It is therefore important to consider all aspects of the working day, not just the standard 9-5 shift.

Long Term

It’s also crucial to consider any long term risks within your workplace. This is particularly pertinent for environments with unique conditions such as a high level of noise or potentially harmful chemicals. Although these types of risks may not appear overly dangerous at first they have the potential to cause lasting damage for employees who deal with them each and every day. This is another aspect of building a risk assessment which could require some further research. For example if you are unsure about a specific hazard such as a chemical substance, it may be useful to contact an organisation who have more information.

Analysis

Another method for identifying potential risks within your business is by reviewing records on ill health and accidents. These represent actual evidence and can be used as a foundation for further analysis. It may also be possible to spot patterns within this information and this can be incredibly informative, for example whether accidents are more likely to happen in a specific location or at a certain time of day.

Personalisation

Risk assessment is all about protecting people and this should be kept in mind when looking for hazards. Special consideration should be given to particularly vulnerable people, including older, younger and disabled workers as well as pregnant women and new mothers. Consideration should also be given to migrant workers or employees with little training who may not be fully acclimatised to the business yet.

Some of the Common Questions We Get

 

When do I need to do a risk assessment?

Assessments are required prior to the completion of any work which could involve risk, for example injury. However, it is worth noting that this only applies to employers and self-employed individuals.

 

What should I include in my risk assessment?

It is important to include information on all significant risks within your business and the individuals they can affect. You should also include details on the current controls in place and further controls which are required. The assessment should show that all eventualities have been considered and therefore the work in question can go ahead with little to no risk involved.

 

Who should my risk assessment cover?

Your assessment should acknowledge any individuals who could be at risk from your business. These should include not only workers directly involved with the high risk activity but also those who may be affected indirectly. Special consideration should be given to older and younger individuals, migrant workers, new or expectant mothers and people with disabilities.

 

What do I need to record?

All of the relevant information should be recorded, this includes the risks involved, your current controls and further controls required. You should also provide information on individual or groups of employees who are particularly at risk.

It is worth pointing out that this only applies to businesses which employ five or more people.

 

What does ‘reasonably practicable’ mean?

This term describes the idea of comparing the level of risk involved with the resources required to deal with this risk, e.g. time, money etc. Although the removal of risk is obviously paramount there should be a reasonable balance between these two factors.

 

What is a hierarchy of control?

When attempting to reduce a risk there are specific control methods which should be employed. These methods should be utilised in a particular order and you should only move onto the next control when the risk is still prevalent, hence hierarchy. In order, these controls include elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and finally, personal protective clothes and equipment.

 

Is risk assessment a legal requirement?

Completing a risk assessment is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed individual. However, as already discussed this only applies to those with five or more employees.

 

What do I need to do in terms of fire safety?

According to the Fire Safety Order of 2005 and under part 3 of the Fire Act (Scotland), employers and building owners are required to complete and maintain a fire safety risk assessment. This includes considering every aspect of fire safety, from structural damage to loss of life. Furthermore, this can be incorporated into the overall risk assessment for your business or can be completed separately.

 

Who is responsible for doing a risk assessment?

As a business owner or self-employed person, you are responsible for the risk assessment- whether you complete it or not. Therefore it’s incredibly important that your assessment is completed by somebody who understands all of the aspects involved.

 

What training/qualifications do I need to do a risk assessment?

Other than a full understanding of the task at hand, there are no specific qualifications or training required. If you are finding any aspects of the assessment troubling there is help out there, including the HSE website and of course ourselves.

 

Who do I involve in a risk assessment?

With a working knowledge of your business and its day to day running, your employees can provide useful information on the potential risks involved.

 

How do I prioritise the actions from my risk assessment?

Many businesses will have to deal with a number of different risks and these should be prioritised according to how serious each risk is. For example a risk of serious injury should prioritised before other aspects within your business.

 

What are significant risks?

Significant risks are just that, anything which poses a real threat to health and safety. These may vary from business to business but they should be relatively easy to recognise.

 

When should I review my risk assessment?

A review of your risk assessment is required if it’s no longer valid or if there has been a change within your business. This may include the introduction of new equipment, substances or even new employees.

 

What should I do if one of my employees’ circumstances change?

This may require you to review and amend your risk assessment in order to accommodate these changes. The health and safety of your employees is paramount and this may involve adapting their workload to their particular circumstances. Changes to look out for include employees who have become pregnant, undergone surgery or become disabled.

 

What responsibilities do my employees have?

Health and safety represents a cooperation between yourself and your employees. As well as looking after themselves and fellow workers, employees should comply with legislation, complete any relevant training and follow any instructions which have been provided. It is also important for employees to provide information on any potential risks or controls which have failed.

 

What should I do if I share my workplace with other employers?

This situation requires cooperation and communication between you and the fellow employer or self-employed individual. Both parties should discuss the specific risks within their own businesses and how these could affect the other employer.

 

What are risk matrices?

Risk matrices are tools which can help employers to ascertain which risks should receive the highest priority. Basically, risks with the highest potential severity of harm and the highest likelihood of harm occurring should be prioritised. Risk matrices aren’t mandatory but some employers may find them useful.

 

How long do I need to keep my risk assessment for?

Your risk assessment records should be kept for as long as they are relevant. If you are required to change your risk assessment for whatever reason then they can be replaced with the updated records.

Health & Safety Checklist for Use in Classrooms

Health and Safety Checklist for Use in Classrooms

Health and Safety in a classroom environment is vital for all using the space – from pupils to teachers, assistants and visitors.  Checking to make sure that all concerned are operating in a healthy and safe space can seem daunting, but essentially it is a matter of common sense.  To help you to ensure health and safety all around, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has compiled a useful Health and Safety Checklist which provides an easy way to assess potential hazards in a regular classroom.   With the aid of this checklist, you can easily assess Health and Safety.  It is recommended that the check is undertaken each term, or when significant changes occur, to identify and Health and Safety issues that need to be dealt with.  Note that the checklist is not designed for use in specialist classrooms or drama and sports facilities, laboratories, art rooms or IT and design and technology areas.  The checklist is used in conjunction with ongoing school-wide approaches to assessing and managing risks.

A range of areas are covered in detail.  The section on slips and trips deals with the condition of flooring; changes in floor level or type of flooring; clear gangways between desks; any trailing electrical leads or cables; sufficient lighting and procedures to handle any spillages.  For stand-alone classrooms, staff are advised to check that any access steps or ramps are well maintained, as well as considering if there are adequate handrails.

With regard to falls, the checklist asks if an appropriate step stool or step ladder is available if needed and, if there are opening windows high in the classroom, is an appropriate window-opener available and in use.

The section pertaining to furniture and fixings addresses the condition of permanent fixtures, such as cupboards, display boards and shelving; as well as checking if furniture is in good order and sized appropriately for the users.  Assessors are further advised to see if portable equipment, such as a television set, is housed on a suitable surface.  With regard to manual handling, advise if adequate trolleys are provided for heavy equipment, such as computers, etc.  Hot surfaces such as radiators should be protected where necessary to avoid the risk of burns, especially to young children.  Check also if any window restrictors used in upper level windows are in good condition.

In classrooms where computers are in use, ensure that a workstation assessment has been completed and that pupils are made aware of good practice when using computers.

It is advisable to check all electrical equipment and services to ensure that all switches and plug sockets, as well as plugs and cables, are in good condition.  Ensure that any portable electrical equipment has been checked and, where appropriate, tested regularly for safety.  Report any damaged electrical equipment that has been taken out of service or replaced.

Some schools still contain asbestos.  If this is the case, are staff aware of the location and condition?  Ensure that staff are further aware of the guidelines regarding securing anything  to walls or ceilings that may contain asbestos.

Potential fire hazards present a great risk to all using the classroom, so check any existing fire exit doors to ensure that they are unobstructed, kept unlocked and easy to open from inside.  Observe if fire-fighting equipment is readily available and that fire evacuation procedures are clearly displayed.  Ensure that fire evacuation drills are well known, and that these include procedures for dealing with any vulnerable adults or children.

With regard to ventilation and heating, note if the room has natural ventilation.  Query if an appropriate room temperature can be maintained and that blinds or similar window dressing are provided to protect from glare and heat from the sun.

Use your common sense and knowledge of activities in the classroom to identify any other potential hazards.  Although not exhaustive, the HSE Checklist can prove a useful tool to help you ensure the safety and comfort of all in the classroom.  A downloadable checklist is available on http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/classroom-checklist.pdf.

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