Wednesday, 26 April 2006

What's the risk with health and safety?

Companies in Shropshire must take the health and safety of their staff seriously if they are to avoid potential legal action, according to a Telford solicitor.

John Mehtam, the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, said employers who were well prepared were more likely to avoid accidents on their premises.

"There has been a lot of talk in the media about a so-called 'compensation culture', where the slightest incident brings a claim against your company.

"But in reality, many claimants fail to realise that an injury isn't enough - to succeed with a claim, they will be required to prove it's your company's fault."

John said many companies worried about receiving random inspections from the Health and Safety Executive.

"They generally tend to concentrate on businesses which are more high risk from a health and safety point of view, such as the construction industry or companies with a previous history of problems.

"Your company is really most at risk of an inspection following an accident where someone is injured, or if an employee you have dismissed decides to report you."

Companies who employ five or more staff are required to have a written health and safety policy, which should set out how you approach the issues at work and what you expect of your staff.

"You should also carry out risk assessments, which need not be complicated, although if your workplace has a lot of hazards, such as open machinery, more detail will be required."

John said it was important to remember that visitors to your premises, as well as staff, could be at risk.

"Look for obvious hazards and decide who may be harmed and how; evaluate the risks and assess whether there are enough precautions in place; record your decisions; and review your assessments regularly.

"By making good use of a sensible health and safety policy, you can protect your staff, your visitors, and of course, your company as a whole."