Growing a business is every entrepreneur’s dream. It’s one thing to make money solo, but it’s quite another when you start scaling to the point where more people are needed.
Increasing headcounts, while an important milestone, come with their own set of challenges. Aside from the usual paperwork and administration necessary, as an employer, you have a duty to keep your employees safe.
Focus on health and safety policies early
Early in the growth stages, it’s easy to focus on setting value-adding targets and KPIs, ensuring your new employees are correctly on-boarded and that they settle quickly, so they can begin adding to your company’s bottom line. This absolute focus on growth, while necessary can make employers and entrepreneurs blind to their basic duties of care. This is especially true of those small companies that don’t have a specialised HR function or have yet to seek external HR support.
It’s crucial then that you set time aside to consider health and safety practices within your organisation. This will be easier for some than others. If you have a small office where everyone works at computers, you’ll have a much easier time of outlining health and safety policy, than you will if you’re involved in construction, manufacturing or engineering.
How to make it work?
Depending on how specific your line of work is, you may need to draft in external expertise to help you get started.
In the case of the common ‘office’, health and safety practices may comprise desk inspections, electrical and fire safety procedures, as well as basic staff training on health and safety to prevent avoidable injury. You may also have some staff trained to be fire wardens to better manage fire risks; this may later lead to the installation of more appropriate fire safety equipment and alarms. Besides routine training and fire safety inspections, the administrative burden associated with office environments is light.
When considering more industrial settings, the outlook is quite different. Machinery, vehicles and other plant represent a very real danger, so very specific training and safety assessments may need to take place to ensure that machine operators are aware of their duties and responsibilities to limit the chances of accident or injury.
If projects require that machinery changes, you may find that you’ll need a dedicated safety officer to plan safety into projects before work begins; They’ll need to ensure that all allocated personnel are trained on the needed equipment, that the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided, and that appropriate insurances and safeguards are in place in the event that something goes wrong.
These practices are likely to evolve as the company grows and learns new things through the course of its work.
Follow the guidelines
Regardless of industry or accident type, there are still some specific guidelines that must be followed in the event of an injury. Most of these are outlined by the Reporting of Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), but guidance is also provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on how to conduct yourself in the event of an accident or injury on your premises.
First and foremost, attend to the injured party and make sure you have someone qualified on hand to provide first aid. If the injury is more serious, make sure emergency help is called for and that the victim is cared for until better-qualified help arrives.
At the first opportunity, once the victim has been properly cared for, record the accident in an accident book. This applies to any accident. Be clear about the date, time, the conditions under which the accident occurred, and whether work equipment, furniture or other hazards were responsible. It would be wise to note the condition of any objects involved, in case safety inspections have been missed, or whether the object was at fault due to an unexpected defect.
When the victim is able, ask that they too record notes on their version of events to supplement your record.
If the incident is particularly serious, and it results in an injury on the ‘specified injuries’ list provided for within RIDDOR, then it must be reported – you can do this via the appropriate forms on the HSE website. This is a legal requirement, and more detailed information on precisely what you need to report can be found on the site.
If the victim can return to work, do accommodate them with lighter tasks where necessary and make any appropriate changes that will allow them to remain productive without exacerbating their injury or increasing recovery times. In some instances, this won’t be necessary, in others, a long-term or more permanent change may need to take place if the victim has lost mobility.
Post-injury employee reintegration
Throughout the process of reintegrating your employee into the workplace after an injury or accident-related absence, be sure to hold regular meetings with them to understand their progress and whether they’re encountering any specific challenges.
Have an HR professional present with you. Record notes on all that is discussed and make sure that these notes are shared after meetings. This provides some much-needed transparency, but it also provides a paper trail that you can rely upon later if any untoward allegations are made, though unlikely.
First and foremost, you need to look after your employee and ensure that they’re made to feel welcome and cared for, as work-place accidents are no small thing. If the rest of your workforce can see that you care for the health of those who get injured at work, it’ll give them confidence in you as an employer and can be good for overall workforce morale.
Internally, take pains to learn from the experience. What circumstances led to the accident? Was it a willful disregard for health and safety procedure? Was the wrong equipment used for the job? Were the necessary tools or equipment faulty or improperly used?
Asking questions like these will help you to understand how your company’s health and safety procedures can be improved. Do employees need to be tested on policy and procedure at routine intervals? Does further training need to be provided on the correct use of equipment? Should equipment be inspected for safety and operability more frequently? If you can demonstrate a commitment to improving health and safety practices over time, particularly in the wake of an incident, it will stand you in good stead should a serious incident happen in the future.
For a more detailed view of the process that an injured party might undertake in the event of an accident, you can find more information over at Your Legal Friend.
In summary, take a common sense approach to handling returning workers. Look after them and reintegrate them as quickly as you can.
Be transparent but involve HR professionals so that you have all your bases covered. Employment law and health and safety regulations are varied, complex and there are a lot of them, so having professionals on hand to help should allow for a positive outcome.
Learn what you can from the incident and develop your health and safety practices over time as you learn more as an organisation.
If you do all of these things, and you have the appropriate insurances and safeguards in place, you should be well prepared when the unexpected strikes.