If you do happen to be visited by a HSE inspector, it will obviously pay for you to be prepared. Remember that the purpose of any advice given (or action taken) by an HSE Inspector is to make your workplace a safer place for all, which can only be a good thing.
- Risk assessments, method statements and health and safety policies should all be available on site and should recently have been reviewed to ensure they are suitable and sufficient and cover all work activities.
- Check that the control measures listed in your risk assessments are actually in place, and are being followed.
- Ensure that employees, contractors and others on site have all been suitably trained and inducted. Make sure there is evidence of the training available – it’s a good idea to get people to sign to say they have attended so that you have proof.
- Walk the site regularly – check that people are doing what you’ve stated in your risk assessments. Are they wearing the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Are they operating machinery safely? Are vehicles following the safe traffic route as designated by your traffic management plan?
- Ensure that copies of all thorough examinations/inspections of equipment are readily available, along with any survey reports (for example, asbestos surveys). There’s nothing more stressful than having to search for things during an inspection.
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Steps should be taken to manage any risks arising from cleaning and maintenance activity. Manufacturer’s instructions should make recommendations on how to safely undertake cleaning and maintenance of their work equipment and, unless there are good reasons otherwise, these should always be followed.
5 Top Tips for Clearing and Maintaining Machines Safely
- There are well-known risks associated with machines that have blockages occurring during their operation. Ensure that you fully incorporate these clearing and maintenance operations into your risk assessments. Use control measures such as guarding to prevent access, but also use warning signs as a visual prompt to stop people entering machines.
- Introduce training – not just for the operation of machines, but also to cover the safe working practices for when things go wrong (such as blockages occurring). Also make this a requirement for all general cleaning (scheduled and non-scheduled) that is needed.
- Any guarding must be regularly checked. Fixed guarding is usually best, but if removable guards are in place, carry out daily checks to verify they are present before work starts. Interlocking guards can be useful in this instance.
- Ensure that machines are isolated (turned off) before attempting to clear blockages, and that they can’t be started with the person (or any body parts) in the machine. Carry out visual checks to make sure workers are not in the vicinity before resuming the operation. Physically ‘locking off’ the machine is also useful, to prevent the machine being started by another person.
- Make sure there is adequate supervision for tasks. Workers may need to have someone there to ask about the correct procedure in the event of a blockage. A good level of supervision can also help prevent people cutting corners to get the job done quicker.
Incredibly, a new worker is as likely to have an accident in their first 6 months with you as during the whole of the rest of their working life. Training for new members of staff must therefore be not only immediate, comprehensive and thorough, but must do everything it can to ensure that the employees have really engaged fully with the need for and detailed demands of accident prevention.
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Generally, being self-employed means you do not work under a contract of employment, and that you work for yourself. If you are unsure of your employment status, you should consult HMRC for guidance.
When the New Rules Won’t Apply
Work activities which are deemed by their nature to be high risk will not be exempt; they will still be subject to the usual health and safety regulations. This includes work with or on:
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Also, there is a clause included in the new legislation which details that other work activities not included in the above list that may present a risk to others will also not be exempt from health and safety law. The key therefore is to look at all of your work activities and see if anything you do could pose a risk to someone else. Could someone trip over your equipment? Could another person be harmed by breathing in a substance you use or produce? Self-employed people who employ others still have to abide by the usual duty to ensure that those in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, so there’s no change there. The message however is very clear – the responsibility lies on you as an individual to work out whether the new rules apply to you or not. Liability in terms of prosecution for health and safety offences could be an issue, so it’s essential to get it right.
What You Need to Do
Assuming your company’s work is straightforward, you should be able to work out from your own work activities as to whether or not the new rules apply. Looking at your current risk assessments for known hazards would be a good place to start. There may well be some confusion if you are using self-employed contractors on your work premises. It will pay to have an understanding of the nature of the work they will be undertaking as, if they deem they are exempt from health and safety law, they may well not be producing the usual health and safety documentation. It’s likely to mean that, in the future, a degree of trust will come into play as to whether a self-employed person has correctly assessed the risk from their work activities – so make sure you have discussed the job properly before it commences, for peace of mind.
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