Keeping Your Small Business Healthy, Safe – and Legal
Do the words “Health and Safety” give you a sinking feeling? Many small business owners tend to feel the same way, but help is at hand. One of the many advantages of choosing managed offices to rent is that you don’t have to take care of this alone, because support is available from the management team.
Many safety rules apply to micro-businesses with as few as 5 members of staff, and some to even smaller enterprises. Vital though these regulations are, they can often add to pressure on company owners who are already short of time.
At Basepoint Business Centres, our staff ensure the building’s H&S compliance and also give support with other essentials such as fire safety and first aid. With the right support networks in place, you are freed up to concentrate on running your business. Here we look at some of the main areas where SMEs need to comply with legislation, and at how renting serviced office space can make this easier to achieve.
Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can help you to be sure you are doing everything you need to in terms of the law. There is a useful “toolbox” section on their website. Businesses with 5 or more employees need to have a health and safety policy written down, as well as a risk assessment. While smaller companies are not required to have written policies, they do still need to take sensible precautions and remove risks as far as possible.
A starting-point for assessing risks is to walk round your workplace and look at what hazards are present, bearing in mind that some items might be more hazardous for particular members of staff – for instance anybody with disabilities. You can then draw up a plan to minimise risks as far as possible. This includes actions such as ensuring safe storage of equipment – including utensils for cooking and cleaning – avoiding trailing cables and carrying out regular workstation assessments.
If you have serviced offices in one of our centres, the management team takes responsibility for carrying out regular health and safety risk assessments for the building as a whole. We can also advise you if you have any queries over health and safety issues in your own office.
Hygiene and Health
Hygiene is a key part of ensuring workspace is safe and healthy. Toilets with proper hand-washing facilities and sanitary disposal, waste bins and refuse collection are things we all tend to take for granted.
But when you are an employer it’s up to you to make all these arrangements, which can prove expensive and time-consuming. You also need to ensure that there is a supply of drinking water and that the workspace has suitable ventilation, heating and lighting.
However, serviced office licensees don’t have to worry about most of these tasks. At Basepoint, our staff organise cleaning of communal areas, including toilets and kitchens, and make sure they are properly stocked.
We also arrange refuse disposal, including recycling collections, and our well-equipped breakout areas include water coolers, as well as coffee machines and places to eat. Lighting, ventilation and heating also come under our remit, as part of building maintenance.
Making first aid provision is another responsibility for businesses, and again starts by making an assessment of what first aid facilities are needed. As a minimum, you need to provide a first aid box and to have an appointed person to take charge of first aid arrangements, and give staff information about this. There needs to be a sign saying where the first aid box is and who the appointed persons are, as well as an accident book.
Depending on the assessment and the number of staff you have, you may also need trained first aiders, who have taken either an Emergency First Aid at Work or First Aid at Work course. However, if you have office space in a Basepoint centre, you don’t need to worry about first aid provision. Our staff are all trained first aiders and also maintain the first aid box for the building.
All businesses with five or more employees are legally required to carry out a fire risk assessment and keep a written record of this. Legally, the business owner is the “responsible person”. The first step is to identify potential fire hazards, such as cooking equipment, heaters and electrical items. The next is to look at who could be at risk if a fire broke out.
You then need to evaluate what steps can be taken to reduce fire risks and make an emergency plan, which regularly needs to be reviewed and updated. All staff need to have training as to what to do in the event of a fire, which means holding regular fire drills. Fire equipment varies depending on the type of business, but you will need to have suitable portable fire extinguishers and alarms, and to display safety signs. You also need a fire safety log book.
If you are in a Basepoint business centre, we take on much of this responsibility. We provide and maintain fire alarms and fire extinguishers and organise fire drills, as well as being responsible for fire alarm callouts. Our staff can also advise and help you with those areas which are still the responsibility of your specific business.