Wright Safety Solutionsestablished 2006

providing Health and Safety for Coventry and Warwickshire small businesses

FAQ - frequently asked questions

On this page I'm offering short answers to the most frequently asked questions from small businesses about safety at work. For more detailed information click items on the main menu on the right hand of this page..

So, the most common questions are: (click for the answer)

  • Why do I need to have a safety policy?

    If you have 5 or more employees then it is the law. It's also a good tool. Use it to keep your employees and visitors/contractors in line, and avoid compensation claims.

    For more information click the Safety Policy button in the menu on the right.

  • What is the law on safety at work?

    There are several laws governing safety at work. First of all you can include the 'common law' Duty of Care. Both an employer and an employee have a duty of care to each other as well as to other employees. So it means that every employer must provide a safe workplace.

    The common law duties were given statutory force by their inclusion in the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) (HaSAWA). What employers have to do is then detailed in related regulations on subjects like management, chemicals, equipment etc. These regulations apply to self-employed people too.

    The Health & Safety at Work Act also puts responsibilities on every employee who has a duty to work safely and not endanger other employees.

    Breaches of HaSAWA involving injury or death are tried as criminal offences

    There are several other aspects of English Law that employers should be aware of. For more information click the Safety Law button in the menu on the right.

  • Who can manage my safety matters?

    Any of your employees can manage your safety matters, but if you are a company owner/director then you are ultimately responsible. You can manage safety matters yourself, or delegate to your team of supervisory staff, or to a dedicated safety officer.

    You can employ a safety consultant to help create a safety system at work but to manage your safety is down to you and your employees.

    For more information click the Safety Management button in the menu on the right.

  • What if my staff can't be bothered?

    Managers at work are there to manage. With regards to health and safety at work it is necessary to instill a culture that recognises the importance of safety law and recognises the value of a good safety system - avoiding risk of accidents, injuries and illness. A company operating in a hazardous industry e.g. working with chemicals, heavy machinery or dangerous processes, will by necessity have to regard health and safety as a priority. Employees will have to recognise this too.

    It is important to involve everyone when formulating and implementing a safety policy to ensure that the values are shared by all. Avoid procedures that might be unnecessarily restrictive, but equally avoid a safey system that might appear to be cutting corners. Staff morale is important, particularly when it comes to health and safety.

    It is very much accepted within UK industry that employees respond well when they get involved in group activity. Make the time available for team meetings and have a safery session maybe once a month or have little seminars with your staff on safety, with a quiz or anything that doesn't look like you're banging on about it. Better still, ask a safety consultant to come in once a month to do this ! :o)

    Appointing an employee as a Safety Representative is also useful in promoting a positive safety culture at work; he/she can bring safety issues up for discussion, allow a balance to be sought, avoid any uncertainties and work towards closing any outstanding issues. This should help to convince staff that health and safety is being managed with employees' safety as the main priority.

    For more information click the Attitudes to Safety button in the menu on the right.

  • Do I have to report accidents?

    One definition of an accident is

    an unplanned event which may result in one or more of :
    loss, damage to property, personal injury, death

    If you are at all interested in avoiding accidents then you should ensure any occurrences are recorded in a book or on forms kept on your premises. That is one way of 'reporting accidents'.

    Under UK regulations, however, certain types of accidents and other incidents at work must be reported to the Health & Safety Executive. These include accidents where an employee (or a member of the public) has been killed, or suffered serious injury. Reportable injuries include fractures (other than fingers, thumbs, toes), dislocation of shoulder, hip, knee, or spine, loss of sight, hot burn to eye, unconsciousness, illness due to exposure to toxic material, and others.

    A minor injury which causes abscence from work of more than 3 days is also reportable.

    For more information click the Accidents at Work button in the menu on the right.

  • What is risk assessment all about?

    A risk assessement is just a careful examination of a situation at work, and deciding if it might cause harm to employees

    Although there are no fixed rules about how to do a safety risk assessment at work the recommended method involves five steps: what are the hazards, who might be harmed, how risky is it and how can persons be protected, make a record of the assessment, review the assessment when necessary.

    Risk assessments are now required by law. By doing them you may save someone from an injury, and save your company from being sued.

    For more information click the Risk Assessment button in the menu on the right.

  • What safety signs do I need?

    The current colour scheme of safety signs is an international standard that was laid down in UK in 1996/1999. The five types are as follows, with examples:

    red and white circular : PROHIBIT
    yellow and black : WARNING
    blue and white circular : MUST DO or MANDATORY
    green and white : SAFE BEHAVIOUR and EXIT ROUTES
    red and white square : FIRE-FIGHTING EQUIPMENT

    Other safety signage is needed where there are Permits To Work and Emergency Procedures in progress etc.

    For more information click the Safety Signs button in the menu on the right.

  • What machine guards do I need?

    With regard to the use of work equipment and machinery the key requirements are stated in regulations issued in 1998. These cover subjects like suitability, maintenance, instruction manuals, start/stop controls, portable tools, robotics, CE marking etc. And of course the safety regulations are particulary concerned about the hazards of machinery, and how users/employees can be protected from injury.

    Machine guards are important protection devices. New equipment will likely be manufactured with appropriate guarding around moving parts and hot surfaces. Older equipment may not. If your equipment was made before 1998 it might not meet the current regulations. A properly conducted risk assessment should determine if your machines have good enough guarding.

    I'll briefly mention here some of the types of guarding used on machinery. They all have advantages and disadvantages; their aim is to protect the user from the machine although they can make using the machine more difficult - but remember the safety of the user is the priority.

    Fixed guards - these are fastened permanently around a part of a machine, e.g. around a belt drive, moving blade or a gear mechanism - moving parts which are not normally accessed during normal use. They protect the user from getting fingers or clothing trapped.

    Example: fixed guard around the upper part of a hand-held circular saw protects the user who is unlikely to touch the underside when cutting wooden board.

    Interlocking guards - these allow a guard or screen to be opened. Usually linked to the operation of the machine, they cause the machine to stop when opened. They are designed to allow safe access to a dangerous part of equipment to allow the adjusting of a tool or work piece, or for example to allow cleaning of a mixing machine or a lathe.

    Trip devices - sometimes it is not practical to install fixed or interlocking guards; they would just get in the way of the machine work. Use of trip devices can protect users by switching off when a person, or his hand, or a tool enters a hazardous area. These devices can make use of light beams, infra-red beams, pressure pads, tripwires or a simple mechanical trigger which switches off the machine when touched.

    Adjustable guards - these are used where any of the other types of guard make the job impractical. These sytems allow the operator to manually adjust the guard and should only be used where there is good lighting and by a properly trained operator. They are commonly used on wood-working machines, grinders and drills.

    Example: adjustable guard fitted around the chuck of a bench drill. This guard can be moved away while changing the drill. The purpose of the guard is to protect the user from flying swarf which can happen if the drill becomes loose in the chuck.

    For more information on Work Equipment click the Equipment button in the menu on the right.

  • What weight can people lift?

    One answer I often give to this question is that "an employee can lift whatever he can if it is without risk". A 10 stone female would be at risk trying to carry 20kg drum in one hand, but to a very strong young man lifting 20kg is quite easy and he will feel comfortable moving it with little risk of dropping it. But if the strong man carries it down a series of icy steps and needs to lift it onto a 5 foot high shelf, then there are increased risks of slipping and/or dropping the weight which could also put others nearby at risk. So the risk is task-dependent. Risks are increased more if the man has the job of moving several 20kg drums, he will get tired, probably strain a muscle and be more likely to drop the weight or slip.

    In these considerations we are making risk assessments, and this is key to safe manual handling. Each lifting operation has to be considered separately, taking all factors into consideration - the task, the individual, the load and the environment. Take the 10 stone female again. She would be comfortable carrying a 4kg drum but what about a 4kg bag of polystyrene pellets? The bag would likely be bigger than the woman!

    So, weight is not the only factor in manual handling - but it is the most common reason for manual-handling accidents. Nearly half of the UK serious work injuries are from incorrect lifting, mostly causing damage to the lower back.

    For more information click the Manual Handling button in the menu on the right.

  • What fire risk do I have?

    First the science bit. Before a fire can start, three things have to be present, and in sufficient quantity:

    • Oxygen - this gas, present in air, is necessary for all combustion in normal work conditions
    • Fuel - this can be ANY combustible material. Examples: paper, wood, plastic, fine dust, flammable liquid, flammable vapour
    • Heat - an ignition source. For example this can be a flame, a spark or a very hot surface

    Note: that as well as air there are other sources of Oxygen. It can be released from oxygen gas cylinders, and also from chemicals known as oxidising agents like peroxides, nitrates. Compressed air when released can in effect be a fresh supply of oxgen. If any of these oxgen sources are present near a fire they will aid combustion and make a fire more severe.

    The law regarding Fire Safety in the UK changed in October 2006. The main points to note are:

    • Fire certificates will no longer be issued to businesses (except high risk sites)
    • The new requirement is for fire safety risk assessment
    • Employers have become solely responsible for fire safety within their workplaces
    • The employer must conduct a fire risk assessment regardless of the size of the risk
    • The employer is responsible for Staff Fire Training, Fire Warden Training
    • The employer is responsible for the provision of fire emergency plans and maintenance of adequate fire safety precautions.
    • The responsible employee appointed by the employer would therefore take full liability

    The employer and his responsible employee must conduct a fire risk assessment and provide the measures necessary to prevent fire or control the risk of fire. The responsible person has a duty to protect the fire brigade by providing a site plan and information about what materials are on site, explaining how and where it is stored. P>The responsible person has a duty to ensure that escape routes are kept clear and comply with regulations with regard to doors and signage. All staff should have training, preferably in the form of fire drills.

    The purpose of fire extinguishers is to enable a small fire to be attacked to prevent it spreading. Factory premises must not be allowed to burn due to risk of spread to neighbouring properties, therefore employers will need to ensure there has been training on the correct use of fire fighting equipment.

    All this means: businesses will no longer be policed by the fire service on whether they are following the regulations its up to the employer.

    AND in event of a fire and investigation if a business is found to have been negligent in one or more areas then the employer or his responsible person will be prosecuted.

    For more information click the Fire Safety button in the menu on the right.

  • How should we handle chemicals?

    The COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations have now been in place since 1989. They are arguably the most significant and wide-ranging regulations yet made under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

    Complying with COSHH involves:

    • identifying hazards
    • assessing risks
    • selecting control measures
    • maintaining controls in good working order
    • monitoring exposures, if required
    • providing information, instruction and training to personnel

    How much of all that you do depends on the materials you use and how much you use. So before you even assess the risks you need to know what you are using. Look around at all the chemicals you use. Are they all properly labelled? Do you have safety data sheets for each? Do you need ventilation? Do your staff need protective clothing? Do you need help?

    Wright Safety Solutions can help you identify the chemicals you use; ensure you have all the necessary information and that all chemicals are labelled and packaged properly, and stored correctly, as required by the CHIP3 regulations (2002). I can guide your business through the relevant stages of COSHH and CHIP3 compliance.

    If your workplace is using chemicals then as well controlling their use you need to provide for the welfare of your employees: protective gloves, glasses, clothes, and provide facilities for washing and eating.

    For more information click the Handling Chemicals button in the menu on the right.

  • Is our workshop too noisy?

    Noise can be a problem at work. Continuous loud noise of course can damage hearing, but any sort of noise at work can become irritating, disturbing to workers and affect efficiency, and also interfere with communication. Regulations dealing with the control of noise at work were updated in 2005 and they define a level of noise at which actiion must be taken and a level where ear protection must be provided.

    Sound is measured in decibels. As a guide, a quiet office of workshop might have a noise level at 40 dB, a group of people talking 60dB, a busy street 80dB and noise from a chainsaw might be over 100dB. You can imagine then that being exposed to anything above 80dB for a whole day will be uncomfortable.

    80dB is the action level. If noise levels reach or exceed 80dB over a working day then an employer must conduct a full risk assessment and take steps to control the noise. Above 85dB then the employer must reduce the noise or provide employees with ear protectors. For example, a fork lift driver in a busy warehouse could be exposed to over 85dB.

    Wright Safety Solutions can assess the noise in your workplace, take measurements, assist with any risk assessments and advise on ear protection.

    For more information click the Noise at Work button in the menu on the right.

  • Are my staff stressed at work?

    In recent years stress at work has been recognised as a significant concern. Many things can cause stress: excessive pressure of work, uncertainties about job, bullying, harrassment, violence etc. The effects of stress can be mental and physical. It can cause nervouseness or panic attacks, it can cause headaches, dizziness, skin problems, stomach problems. And it can affect performance at work with poor concentration, poor motivation, low morale and absence from work.

    Regulations require that employers take account of stress at work. It is always a difficult area to try and deal with as employees are often reluctant to admit they are stressed, fear of bullying increases, and some employers are not sympathetic. But regulations do require that stress at work be controlled and it's often useful to employ a consultant to look at this problem for you.

    For more information click the Stress at Work button in the menu on the right.

  • Who can investigate our problems?

    Small businesses are often too busy or under-staffed to deal with all safety issues. There may be problems with noise, chemicals, equipment, incidents, accidents and there just isn't the time to deal with each and every problem. But if there is a problem at work putting people at risk then the worst thing to do is nothing. Knowing there is a safety problem and ignoring it is not only dangerous, it is against the law. If an employee is injured and the injury is due to conditions that were known then the employer can be prosecuted, and the employee can sue.

    So if you know you have a safety problem at work but don't know how to tackle it, maybe Wright Safety Solutions can investigate., find out what the problem is and sort it.

    For more information click the Safety Investigations button in the menu on the right.

  • Can somebody do a full safety check for me?

    Small businesses are often too busy to even know that they have safety issues. Quite often employees will be reluctant to report problems, preferring to get on with the job. Often there is an ignorance of the safety laws, a complacency with regard to use of chemicals and equipment, over-familiarity with the job, a total lack of safety culture. In small businesses such a situation can go on undetected, until there is an accident, and an accident in a small business can mean the end of the business, especially if the employer is prosecuted or sued by his employee.

    If you feel at risk because safety is not being dealt with at your company you might benefit from a FREE FIRST VISIT or a complete safety review, and full programme of safety inspection, training and monitoring.

    For more information click the Your Safety Consultant button in the menu on the right.

Contact Wright Safety Solutions :

Wright Safety Solutions
John A. B. Wright
B.Sc. (Chem), TechIOSH
safety qualification: NEBOSH (Gen.Cert.)

Tel: (024) 76618235
Mobile: 0779 3880597



this page first published 12 January 2007
last updated 4 April 2020

Health and Safety for Coventry and Warwickshire small businesses

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