What Is Workplace Health and Safety?

As Health and Safety professionals, Prosafe Consultants often talk to our clients about Workplace Safety, and we also use this term in our blogs, vlogs and social media.

As one of the most searched Health and Safety topics there is obviously still some confusion about its definition, so in this blog we will strip it back to uncover what we actually mean by ‘Workplace Health and Safety’ and what exactly employers should be doing to ensure Workplace Safety.

So first of all what does the term ‘workplace’ cover?

Well the HSE defines workplace to mean any premises or part of a premises which are made available to any person as a place of work. This also includes the common parts of shared buildings, private roads and paths on industrial estates and business parks.

Once these workplaces have been identified by an employer, there are several factors which need to be considered to help employees stay safe and healthy. These include lighting, ventilation, temperature and toilet and washing facilities. We’ll cover these in further detail in this blog.

The needs of people with disabilities must also be thought about, for example adapted toilet and washing facilities, wide doorways and gangways.

Next, it is a good idea to get an action plan together, in order to ensure the workplace is safe. As a guide, we recommend you:

  • make sure your buildings are in good repair
  • maintain the workplace and any equipment so that it is safe and works efficiently
  • put right any dangerous defects immediately, or take steps to protect anyone at risk
  • take precautions to prevent people or materials falling from open edges, eg fencing or guard rails
  • fence or cover floor openings, eg vehicle examination pits, when not in use
  • have enough space for safe movement and access
  • provide safety glass, if necessary
  • make sure floors, corridors and stairs etc are free of obstructions, eg trailing cables
  • provide good drainage in wet processes
  • make sure any windows capable of being opened can be opened, closed or adjusted safely
  • make sure all windows and skylights are designed and constructed so that they may be cleaned safely (you may also need to fit anchor points if window cleaners have to use harnesses)
  • minimise risks caused by snow and ice on outdoor routes, eg use salt or sand and sweep them

Next let’s talk about some specifics of Workplace Health and Safety, which we have grouped into 6 categories.

1. Lighting:

You must provide:

  • good light – use natural light where possible but try to avoid glare
  • a good level of local lighting at workstations where necessary
  • suitable forms of emergency lighting
  • well-lit stairs and corridors
  • well-lit outside areas – for pedestrians and to help with work activities such as loading/unloading at night

2. Moving around the premises

You must have:

  • safe passage for pedestrians and vehicles – separate routes may be necessary
  • level, even floors and surfaces without holes or broken boards
  • hand-rails on stairs and ramps where necessary
  • safely constructed doors and gates
  • floors and surfaces which are not slippery

3. Cleanliness

You must:

  • provide clean floors and stairs, with effective drainage where necessary
  • provide clean premises, furniture and fittings
  • provide containers for waste materials
  • remove dirt, refuse and trade waste regularly
  • clear up spillages promptly
  • keep internal walls or ceilings clean

4. Hygiene and welfare

You must provide:

  • clean toilets and hand basins, with running hot and cold or warm water, soap and towels or another suitable means of drying
  • drinking water
  • somewhere to rest and eat meals, including facilities for eating food which would otherwise become contaminated
  • showers for dirty work or emergencies
  • drying facilities for wet work clothes, if practical and necessary
  • accommodation or hanging space for personal clothing not worn at work (and somewhere to change if special clothing is worn for work)
  • rest facilities for pregnant women and nursing mothers

5. Comfortable conditions

You must provide:

  • a reasonable working temperature within workplaces inside buildings (usually at least 16 °C, or 13 °C for strenuous work, unless it is impractical to do so, eg in the food industry)
  • local heating or cooling where a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom (eg hot and cold processes)
  • good ventilation – a sufficient supply of fresh, clean air drawn from outside or a ventilation system
  • heating systems which do not give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume into the workplace  
  • enough workspace, including suitable workstations and seating

6. Working outdoors

For work outdoors you should consider things such as the weather, temperature (both hot and cold) and sun exposure.

The subject of Workplace Health and Safety will always be a hot topic as it is so far reaching and affects EVERY workplace in the UK.

But broken down into simple categories and a checklist of tasks, it doesn’t have to be daunting. Addressed properly, Workplace Health and Safety is the key to reducing the risk of accidents, staying safe and legal and increasing the profits of the business.

For further details about Workplace Health and Safety, help with your task checklist or any other Health and Safety enquiry, call Prosafe (UK) Ltd now on 01724 712342 or email our consultants directly at info@prosafeuk.co.uk.

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