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HEALTH AND SAFETY

1. Have you a health and safety policy?

[Every employer of five or more is required by law to have a health and safety policy. This is in three parts: (1) The general statement of intent; (2) The organisation (i.e. the management structure with various health and safety responsibilities being allocated to various people in the management structure) and (3) The arrangements for putting the policy into effect (this will include such matters as: fire precautions, ensuring electrical safety, carrying out risk assessments, examinations of tests of lifting equipment etc etc).

The health and safety policy should be up to date i.e. should contain references to contemporary not outdated legislation, should accurately reflect any changes there may have been in the company’s structure, and should be signed by the chief executive, managing director or similar person.]

2. Have risk assessments been carried out and recorded?

[Risk assessments are required by various codes of regulations. The principal ones are:

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – employer must assess all other risks (i.e. those not already covered by COSHH, DSE and Manual Handling) presented by his operations both to his own employees and to others who may be affected.
  • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – all employers are required to carry out a specific fire risk assessment of the workplace. This is so even if they hold a valid fire certificate.
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) – the employer is required to assess the risks to the health of his employees and others presented by hazardous substances encountered in the course of work. Be it noted that this does not include only substances used at work, but waste products and by-products – wood dust, welding fumes etc. Proper account must be taken of non-routine events – e.g. leakages and spillages.
  • Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 – the employer must assess the risks to workers associated with use of display screen equipment.
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 – the employer must assess the risk to employees posed by manual handling and lifting.

All assessments must be suitable and sufficient.]

3. Have all staff been given appropriate health and safety training?

[All staff must be given health and safety training which is appropriate to the workplace, the nature of the work, and their jobs. For office based staff a general health and safety awareness of office related hazards and controls may be appropriate; in the case of staff using woodworking machinery, very detailed training may be required.]

4. Have you appointed a competent person to advise on health and safety?

[The employer is required to appoint one or more competent persons to advise it on health and safety. Where a competent person exists within the organisation, this person should be appointed. Where no such persons exist, the employer will need to consider training a person. The employer will also need to consider the use of external sources for independent or specialist advice and assistance.]

5. Have you identified and provided emergency procedures?

[Employers are required to identify likely emergencies and to provide emergency procedures. The obvious one is fire, but (depending on what you do and where you are) bomb threat may be a real possibility – and don’t forget such matters as leak of gas, spillage of hazardous substance etc.]

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ENVIRONMENT

6. Do you keep on site any potentially polluting materials?

[Obvious things are: fuel oil, solvents – and even milk in large quantities (if milk escapes and makes its way into a nearby river or stream it can kill off all the aquatic life.) If such potentially polluting materials are stored on-site have precautions been taken? – i.e. bunds around fuel tanks, spillage retention kerbs for drums of solvent, stocks properly located so that any leakage does not run into the nearest drain etc.]

7. Do you undertake any processes which result in releases to the atmosphere?

[Obvious examples will be: spray painting, operation of furnaces, foundry work etc. Depending on what is done and what quantities of materials are involved, authorisation to operate may be required – in any event significant releases may be deemed to constitute a nuisance.]

8. Do your customers expect you to have an environmental policy?

[Increasingly, large organisations – particularly those in the public sector – expect and even demand that their suppliers have a written environmental policy]

9. Are you under any pressure from your customers, shareholders or stakeholders to have an environmental management system?

[There is an increasing tendency for large organisations to require all of their suppliers to have a demonstrable environmental management system – a system conforming to ISO 14001 is probably the commonest.]

10. Are you taking steps to minimise energy consumption, waste and vehicle use?

[Minimising energy consumption straightforwardly saves you money as well as helping the environment. So does minimising waste – you have to pay to have waste disposed of. Minimising vehicle use, by encouraging car sharing, use of public transport etc helps to demonstrate your green credentials and may make staff journeys to work faster]

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GENERAL BUSINESS RISK

11. Have you carried out a business impact analysis?

[Do you know what is critical to the continuance of your business – this might include key machinery, key people, key suppliers (particularly if there is a single supplier), key customers (if an organisation gets 90% of its business from one customer what happens if that customer goes bust, changes ownership or just has a change of mind).]

12. Have you considered any business continuity plan?

[i.e. have you any plans to respond to the breakdown of a key machine, to supplies from a key or single supplier being interrupted by strike, fuel shortage etc or even to your business being affected by a completely external event (remember the Buncefield Oil Depot explosion)? Do you appreciate what the effect might be if a key employee is ill, dies or simply decides to leave? What happens to your skill and knowledge base if a whole team of employees defects to a competitor?]

13. Have you a disaster recovery plan?

[If the organisation’s operations were to be badly damaged by fire, flood, long term loss of power, communications etc have you in place plans to minimise the damage and get the business back into operation as quickly as possible. The disaster recovery plan will normally need to identify (well in advance of the event) alternative premises, supplies of new or replacement equipment, alternative supplies of operating software and the people to install it etc.]

14. Do you ever rehearse any plans you may have formulated?

[Even if you have business continuity or disaster recovery plans you can’t be confident that they will work unless you rehearse them from time to time: tabletop simulations (rather like war-gaming) – can be very useful.]

15. Have you considered the need for crisis management?

[For example if a food or drink manufacturer has a product contamination scare (founded or unfounded) how will it deal with the potentially disastrous lack of public confidence in its products and limit the damage to its reputation and therefore business. This obviously goes to such topics as dealing with the media etc.]

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EMPLOYMENT

16. Have you drawn up suitable contracts for all your employees?

[It is wise to provide every employee with a written contract. The contract should refer to such matters as disciplinary and grievance procedures, the policy on sex discrimination, consultation with employees etc. It may be valuable to have a staff handbook or intranet site where these are clearly set out. Even if you do not have written contracts you are still required by law to provide each employee with at least a written statement of particulars setting out such key matters as the date employment began, hours of work, holiday entitlements, pay scales etc]

17. Have you specific written policies on such matters as racial and sexual discrimination, disability discrimination, and bullying in the workplace?

[Discrimination on racial and sexual grounds is effectively outlawed (there are very few allowable justifications). Unreasonable discrimination against disabled persons (who might be employees, candidates for employment or customers) is also against the law. Bullying can constitute a fundamental breach of contract which might result in a claim for damages for ill-health as well as an Employment Tribunal claim. You need to have demonstrable effective means of implementing these policies fairly and equitably]

18. Have you drawn up formal written disciplinary and grievance procedures?

[Failure to have and to adhere to formal and well known disciplinary procedures may well see you faced with an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. Such procedures must be objective, give the employee a proper chance to state his or her case and contain appeal mechanisms. Grievance procedures also must be clear (and are provided for by specific legislation)]

19. Do you take all appropriate steps to ensure diversity in the workplace?

[For the reasons above it is wise to seek a diverse workforce in which there is due representation of the sexes, races, abled and disabled. In any event, seeking a diverse workforce can have simple commercial benefits – potential customers from a particular background may well be more likely to deal with an organisation which is seen to employ people like them]

20. Have you a suitable source of advice and information on Human Resources matters?

[Employment law is one of the fastest growing and most difficult areas of law, full of pitfalls for the unwary employer. It is not sensible to operate on the basis that “if I treat people as I think right” all will be well – the reports of the Employment Tribunals are littered with the stories of decent employers who failed to appreciate the scope and complexity of the law. Don’t forget that it may be necessary to manage people out of the business in a way which does not cause resentment or an Employment Tribunal claim. Quite apart from the legal implications you need to have – and be able to manage – information on sickness absences, holidays and so on]

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