keeping staff and volunteers safe at work
19 January 2021

Workplace welfare: keeping staff and volunteers safe

Whether your employees and volunteers are based in the office, onsite or offshore, your organisation is responsible for their health and safety while at work. Even relatively harmless jobs are not hazard-free, and it is the employer’s job to identify and reduce these risks. To help you get started, we’ve gathered some guidance on ensuring workplace welfare by combining proper planning and precise procedures with clear and consistent communication. For further detail on these points, visit the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Risks and regulations

Yes, we’re launching straight into the legalities here. Boring though it may seem, it is the law that every company has a health and safety policy, which explains clearly who does what, when and how, to manage health and safety in your business. If you have five employees or more, it must be put into writing, but we’d recommend doing this anyway. And of course, the first step in risk reduction is a thorough risk assessment, in which you identify the hazards, weigh up the risks, apply appropriate controls, and review them regularly.

Communication and consultation

Health and safety measures are only as good as everyone’s understanding of them. If possible, appoint at least one person to ensure the policies and procedures are clearly communicated to all staff and volunteers, through training sessions and prominent posters. Keep people in the loop with policy updates, and host consultations when planning new procedures. Workers on the frontline will be most aware of the real risks and potential health and safety pitfalls.

Giving training and getting technical

One of the most effective measures to keep staff safe is through rigorous training on all aspects of the job. If the tasks are particularly tricky, technical or treacherous, do not be afraid to supervise new employees, and ensure no one is taking unsafe shortcuts.

Certain roles require specific safety training and qualifications, for example food safety and hygiene procedures for any form of catering. If you serve or sell food to the public, ensure your staff are up to speed with the guidance from the Food Standards Agency. Check the HSE website for any publications specific to your business and obtain a copy.

You can further reduce the risks to your staff by supplying specialist equipment that makes their job safer, such as heavy lifting machinery to replace potentially injurious manhandling. Supply personal protective equipment appropriate to each scenario, such as protective clothing against hazardous substances, masks to keep out harmful gases, and hard hats, steel toecap boots and ear defenders on building sites. All safety measures must apply equally to visitors and contractors, as well as your own people.

First aid and fire safety

It should go without saying that every organisation must have a fully trained first aider and a complete and easily accessible first aid box. But you must also have an accident book to report incidents in, and any resulting changes to your risk management. You must also appoint fire wardens – how many will depend on the size of your workforce – to run fire safety checks, keep evacuation routes clear, and conduct regular drills.

Slow and silent health hazards

Not all risks are as immediate as a fire or a falling filing cabinet. Your risk assessment should also consider what long-term health issues employees might suffer and how to prevent them. For example, exposure to hazardous substances or pollution could cause skin and lung diseases, so provide suitable protective equipment. And office workers spending long hours at the computer could suffer eye problems, so encourage regular screen breaks and provide ergonomic chairs or standing desks to protect their posture.

Personnel protection during a pandemic

The global coronavirus pandemic that began in 2020 has brought major changes to work practices in almost every industry. With this invisible and deadly foe, health and safety is more important than ever. So, if your staff are unable to work from home, you must ensure that your workplace has adopted COVID secure practices and that employees have appropriate protection. Again, HSE has plenty of guidance on PPE, for both healthcare and non-healthcare roles. And we’ve gathered some health and safety tips for those now working from home.

Build a back-up plan

No matter how thorough your risk assessment, some hazards are simply unavoidable and the safety measures neither feasible nor affordable. Unity Insurance Services can help protect your organisation by carefully crafting an insurance policy for your specific needs. Give our team a call today on 0345 040 7702 for more information.