Safe Working Essentials: Five Tips For Startups To Remain Compliant

For an entrepreneur there are few things as exciting as starting a new business. From bagging your first client or sale to turning the keys in the door of your first office, the big moments come thick and fast at the beginning.

But, in all the excitement it can be easy for some fundamental departments to fall by the wayside or become an afterthought. Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about workplace safety and compliance.

While it’s not the sexiest of startup departments, getting a handle on safe working essentials can set your company up for many years of successful and incident-free trading. With National Careers Week being celebrated from the 6th to 11th of March, follow these safety and compliance tips to promote a positive workplace health and safety culture.

Why do startups need to be compliant?

All businesses must comply with employment laws and regulations and the same rules apply to startups. This is largely following the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and whether you have five employees or 600, the rules apply to all businesses.

While it may seem like the last thing on your priority list, the sooner your startup becomes compliant with the rules and regulations the sooner you can fully focus your attention on growing.

From protecting you and your employees to identifying potential hazards, not to mention the legal implications for neglecting to comply, startups must iron out their safety kinks sooner rather than later. And,  with the UK’s National Careers Week in mind, it’s useful to note that companies with a good safety reputation will be more attractive to current staff and potential candidates. 

1. Establish your health and safety policy 

Companies must have an established plan to set out their approach to health and safety and how, as the responsible employer, they intend to deal with any incidents related to workplace safety. Not only should your health and safety policy lay out a general plan, it must also clearly define who in the company does what, when they must do it and how it will be done.

For example, a bakery may have to define when its ovens are in use, who is authorised to use them and what the safest way of placing items in and out of the oven is.

The only time a company can avoid writing a health and safety policy is if there are fewer than five employees – but even then, it’s worthwhile to have a defined set of actions in the event of a health and safety incident. Companies must also display the Health and Safety at Work Act either as a poster on the wall or in a printed leaflet.

An effective health and safety policy will cover the following areas:

  • Statement of intent – your general health and safety policy
  • Health and safety responsibilities – specifically defining who is responsible for health and safety
  • Health and safety arrangements – the mechanisms in place to allow you to carry out your health and safety policy as described

2. The importance of risk assessments

Risk assessments are a form of risk prevention because they are the act of identifying and putting measures in place to ensure that potential hazards are highlighted and plans formed to minimise their risk. It seeks to uncover who could be harmed and how, what you are already doing to prevent injury and what you could do better. 

This risk could be through the operation of machinery, how suitable the office chairs are or whether your production methods are creating hazardous materials. You should also consider a mental health audit to better understand hidden aspects of your company and how they impact your employee’s mental well-being.

From manual handling assessments and air quality in a production environment to equipment maintenance, the more potential risks you identify the sooner you can create processes that factor them in. Completing a risk assessment will also be beneficial in gaining employers’ liability insurance, which some companies may void or refuse without one.  3. Using fit-for-purpose facilities

A risk assessment may uncover more safety issues than you had originally anticipated, for example, a workplace that isn’t fit for purpose. Although companies have come a long way since the term Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) was coined in the 1980s by the World Health Organisation, businesses continue to be reactive. Industries still face occupational hazards while offices adapt to sickness outbreaks, incidents and unprecedented health crises like the pandemic.

The tech industry’s common workplace injuries and accidents are caused by obstructed walkways, poor lighting and ill-equipped chairs. Failing to provide adequate and safe-to-use facilities or equipment could result in an injury at work. This can subsequently result in a personal injury claim, which employees cannot be sacked for, and which companies have to take accountability for if at fault. 

4. What first aid training do startups need?

First aid could save a life and employers are required to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and personnel to ensure employees receive the necessary attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

While you won’t necessarily need to provide first aid training to one or more of your staff, someone must be available and equipped to take charge of first aid in the workplace. That may be giving first aid or being able to arrange for it to be administered by someone with a valid first aid certificate.

5. Appointing competent persons

Not only must you appoint someone to take charge of first aid, you must also appoint a competent person who helps you to meet your health and safety needs. They may be the same person but it’s important to distinguish the two roles and a competent person ensures that companies meet all legal and employee welfare requirements.

Whether you elect yourself or appoint someone else in your company here are the responsibilities expected of a competent person:

  • Sufficient knowledge and skills to recognise potential hazards in the workplace
  • Experience to put sensible controls in place to protect workers and visitors from harm
  • No formal training is required, although it can be useful

Embrace safety from the beginning

Health and safety compliance is necessary for all companies but this can be especially important for startups as they begin finding their feet. Not only do you stay legally compliant which helps to avoid fines or reputational damage at a critical time, but this also protects your employees, reduces costs through fewer workplace incidents and builds a safety culture to be proud of.