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Health and safety basics

Basic health, safety and welfare needs must be met for the business, any employees, customers and other visitors to your place of business. People with disabilities need to be catered for. Here are the requirements that apply to most regarding employee:

From the Health & Safety Executive

Fresh, clean air must be drawn in from outside and circulated thought workrooms. Ventilation should create air movements without feeling drafty, and remove and dilute warm air.

For indoor workspace the temperature must be at least 16C where less active work occurs, and 13C where active work is being performed. Rooms need to be heated or cooled to these temps dependant on weather. Warmer may be needed in winter for example, and thermal or protective clothing should be supplied when needed.

Natural light is the best, avoid glare, and use good lighting when natural light isn't available. Workstations need local lighting in addition and it should be suitable for the job being done, e.g. fluorescent tube lighting can flicker and be dangerous when using rotating machinery. Also special fittings are needed for flammable atmospheres like spray painting.

Cleanliness and Waste Materials
Premises must be clean and free of waste. All furniture, fittings and areas need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Containers for waste need to be adequately provided, and is smoking is allowed in an outdoor area provide adequately for ash and butts. Keep cleaning done it regular intervals and immediately after a spill.

Room Dimensions
Workrooms need enough free space to move around in easily. For specific guidance on room dimensions refer to HSE's free leaflet Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare A short guide for managers (PDF file)

Work Stations
  • Seat back rests must support the small of the back.
  • work surfaces need to be set at a sensible height,
  • Easy access to equipment, no stretching up for heavy things.
  • People can leave workstation swiftly in case of emergency.
  • No one is required to do heavy lifting without assistance.

Maintenance of the workplace and equipment Always:
  • See buildings are kept in good repair
  • Provide adequate space per person for safe movement and access, e.g. to machinery or other workers, in their personal workspace.
  • Ensure safe glazing, (glass panels, doors) marked to make it easy to see.
  • Have good drainage in wet processes.
  • Give weather protection for outdoor workplaces, when practical
  • Keep all outdoor routes safe to use during icy conditions, e.g. salted/sanded and swept.
Floors and traffic routes
  • Keep floors, corridors and stairs etc free of obstructions, e.g. trailing cables
  • Provide non-slip surfaces.
  • Maintain well lit outdoor areas/ walkways also good for security.
  • Create safe passages for pedestrians and vehicles - separate routes may be needed.
  • Keep level, even surfaces without holes or broken boards at all times.
  • Supply hand-rails on stairs and ramps where appropriate.
  • Provide safe doors, e.g. vision panels in swing doors, sensitive edges on power doors
Falls and falling objects
  • Provide barriers and take precautions where people or materials might fall from open edges, e.g. fencing or guard rails
  • Protect and sign floor openings, e.g. vehicle examination pits must be fenced or covered when not in use
Transparent and Translucent Doors, Gates or Walls and Windows
Windows, transparent or translucent surfaces in walls, partitions, doors, and gates need to be made of safety material or have breakage protection.

Safe cleaning of windows
Windows must open freely and be able to be cleaned safely. Design must ensure people cannot fall out or bump into open windows. Fit anchor points if window cleaners have to use harnesses.

Escalators and moving walkways
Need to function safely, be equipped with any necessary safety devices, and fitted with, one or more, identifiable and accessible emergency stop controls.

Toilets and Washing Facilities
  • Provide clean, well-ventilated toilets.
  • Have separate toilets for men and women, unless each convenience has its own lockable door.
  • Supply hot and cold (or warm) running water at wash basins.
  • Make showers available for dirty work or emergencies.
  • Provide soap and towels (or a hand drier). Check usage levels daily.
  • Supply skin cleansers, with nail brushes where necessary e.g. food service.
  • Provide barrier cream or skin conditioning cream where necessary
  • Continual supply of special hygiene precautions, where necessary, e.g. latex gloves, and hairnets for food preparation/serving.
Drinking Water
Provide clean, clearly marked drinking water supply at all times. Use an upward drinking jet system or suitable cups.

Storage for Clothing/Changing Facilities
Lockers or hanging space must be provided for clothing and changing facilities where special clothing is worn. The facilities need to allow for drying clothes.

Rest and eating areas
Provide rest facilities, (staff lunchroom, break area) including facilities for eating when a danger food contamination could occur if eaten elsewhere. Rest facilities need to be adequate for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Rest areas and rooms should include suitable arrangements to protect non-smokers from discomfort caused by tobacco smoke. e.g. smoking area outside open window leading to staff lounge.

Help to get it right. The risks if you don't
HSE has designed a free leaflet Reduce Risks - Cut Costs (PDF file) to help small and medium-sized business calculate the cost of accidents. It will help to work out how much the firm might lose, and gives advice on how to avoid such costs. It also includes real-life case studies showing firms that have suffered financially as a result of poor health and safety performance.

Reproduced under core licence from the Health and Safety Executive's website.

For help creating a health and safety policy and undertaking risk assessments, please read PlanIT health and safety software tool.
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