Health and safety are things we all talk about – whether it is to do with keeping ourselves healthy so that we can go to work and look after our children; or whether we mean keeping our home and environment protected using fire alarms and smoke detectors; or making sure our work setting is safe for those we employ. Whatever we mean, health and safety matters!
April 28th is World Day for Health and Safety at Work, a United Nations recognised day established in 2003 by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The intention behind setting up the day was to raise awareness of how to make work safe and healthy, and to draw attention to the political profile of occupational health and safety to apply pressure where it is needed to promote change and prevent accidents. The 28th of April is also Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers, which is a day of remembrance organised by the trade union movement started in 1996.
Key facts and figures
According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2021-22, there were:
- 1.8 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, of which
- 914,000 workers were suffering work-related stress, depression or anxiety
- 477,000 workers were suffering
- from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder
- 123,000 workers with COVID-19 who believed they may have been exposed to coronavirus at work
- 2,544 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2020)
- 123 workers killed in work-related accidents
- 565,000 working people sustained an injury at work according to the Labour Force Survey
- 61,713 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR
- 36.8 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
- £18.8 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2019/20)
- Across the world, the figures vary from country to country, but health and safety is important, and it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that everything possible is done to maintain standards.
In the UK, there are criminal and civil laws which apply to workplaces in relation to health and safety. As an employer, you are bound under these laws to protect your workers and other people from getting hurt or ill through their working association with you. If you fail to protect your workforce, then you can be prosecuted under either criminal or civil law and you could face a criminal court case and/or a claim for compensation. Ensuring you have up-to-date and appropriate employer’s liability insurance is important to cover any compensation claims that may be brought against you.
The main piece of legislation governing health and safety in the UK is the “Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974”, although there are also a series of other legislations that apply including, but not limited to:
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
- Display Screen Equipment Regulations (DSE) 1992 (amended 2002)
- Control of Substances Hazard to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
- Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
Health and safety policy
A health and safety policy sets out your setting’s general approach to health and safety issues. It explains how you, as an employer, will manage health and safety in your business. It should clearly say who does what, when and how. If you have five or more employees, you must have a written health and safety policy. If you have fewer than five employees, then you do not have to write anything down, but you may find it useful to do so because it can act as a reminder and checklist for things that need to be done.
According to the HSE, the policy should cover 3 main areas:
Part 1: Statement of intent
This is where you state your general policy on health and safety at work, including your commitment to managing health and safety. It should include your aims and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that it is reviewed regularly. Under UK law, employers have a duty of care to towards their employees to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all.
Part 2: Responsibilities for health and safety
This is where you list the names, positions and roles of the people in your setting who have specific responsibility for health and safety issues.
Part 3: Arrangements for health and safety
In this part of the policy, you should give details of all the practical arrangements you have in place, showing how you will achieve your health and safety policy aims. Things that could be included could cover the following although this list is not exhaustive:
- Conducting appropriate risk assessments
- Training employees in the use of equipment or working from heights, for example
- How you will use safety signs
- How you will check equipment and procedures such as fire alarms and fire drills
- How you deal with potentially hazardous substances (COSHH)
- How you will review and update procedures
You can find out more about how to write a good Health and Safety policy on the HSE website here.
There are also many companies who specialise in health and safety issues that offer advice and consultancy work which might be of use to your setting. You can download a free health and safety toolkit here which gives information on 13 of the most critical health and safety regulations in the UK today although an internet search will also reveal many other specialist companies.
How to mark the day in your setting
Since one of the main aims of the day is to raise awareness of health and safety issues at work, there are a number of things that you can do to ensure that you are doing everything you can to promote health and safety issues in your setting.
- Conduct a health and safety audit across your setting
- Update any risk assessments which need to be in place
- Ensure that your health and safety policies are robust, up-to-date, and fit for purpose
- Make sure that your staff are well-trained in health and safety issues
- Ensure that other stakeholders in your setting are also aware of health and safety issues – this could mean ensuring your parents adhere to drop-off/collection policies, or encouraging children to wash hands regularly to prevent the spread of infection