Notwithstanding a bit of reshuffling, the top four on the list of calls to our helpline are still legislation, policies, accidents and fire. Queries about hazardous substances are a new entry. For advice on these or any other health and safety issue, speak to a qualified consultant on 0844 561 8149.

Changes in health and safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has indicated that at least 11 million jobs may become surplus in the next 20 years as a result of automation. This is likely to introduce new regulations, procedures and potential threats to safety. As such, employees need to be ready to adapt their health and safety procedures accordingly.

1. Legislation (up 1 place)

Many of the queries to our helpline revolved around mental health.

In 2018, we saw a significant development in the importance of, and resources committed to, mental health. Campaigns, public figures and unions all did much to raise awareness and to signpost what organisations can do to protect the mental health of employees, and support those struggling with their mental health.

Campaigns such as #TimetoChange and World Mental Health Day both played parts in encouraging conversations about mental health. With this momentum, we anticipate continued focus on this topic and a spotlight on existing legislation.

A recent independent review, Modernising the Mental Health Act: Increasing Choice, Reducing Compulsion, finds that the Mental Health Act 1983 is “outdated and paternalistic”.

“It was written when people with a mental health problem were something to be afraid of,” said Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who chaired the review group of mental health professionals, academics and patients.

“But the way we think about mental health and illness has changed dramatically, so now they are more likely to be seen as people to be helped.”

These findings, coupled with Theresa May's announcement to invest £2.3 billion in support for individuals suffering from mental health conditions, indicate that 2019 could be another year of significant change in this field. For more details, see the Mental Health Toolkit and the Mental Health topic.

2. Policies (down 1 place)

It is a legal requirement to have a written health and safety policy if your organisation employs more than five people, and policies are essential to maintain the required level of safety in your workplace.

Typical health and safety policy and procedures should normally include the following.

  • The risks present in your workplace: how you are identifying, monitoring and reducing them wherever possible. How you will keep staff informed and updated on potential hazards and risks in the workplace and the measures being taken to mitigate them.

  • How you are managing any hazardous substances, equipment or machinery. Consider to what degree your staff are informed, educated and trained in these areas.

  • The actions required to minimise these risks: are you doing the best you can to ensure all risks are managed and minimised?

  • Whose responsibility it is to ensure these actions are taken. What are your reporting lines and management structure when it comes to health and safety?

  • Identify who is responsible for recording and monitoring incidents and tasks. Do you have clear monitoring systems in place?

  • What happens in case of emergencies? State who has responsibilities and who needs to be informed.

For detailed information, and a template health and safety policy, see the Health and Safety Policy topic.

3. Accidents/RIDDOR (stays the same)

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as during the whole of the rest of their working life.

In situations where reportable accidents do occur at work (see our Accident Reporting topic), the HSE is responsible for enforcing the RIDDOR process.

Accident and disease reports should be submitted online. The options include forms to report: an injury, dangerous occurrence, injury offshore, dangerous occurrence offshore, case of disease, inflammable gas incident and dangerous gas fitting.

A telephone reporting service is available for reporting only fatal or specified, and major incidents.

As the HSE isn't an emergency service, you don't need to contact them out of office hours to report workplace injuries. Some situations where the HSE may need to respond during out-of-office hours include a:

  • work-related death

  • serious incident with multiple casualties

  • incident that has caused major disruption (evacuations, road closures, etc).

4. Fire (up 1 place)

Sadly, 2018 brought a number of reports of fires, highlighting the importance of ensuring safety and assessing risks before any unfortunate incident occurs. As recommended by the HSE, important steps to take as an employer are to:

  • carry out a fire safety risk assessment

  • keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart

  • avoid accidental fires, eg make sure heaters cannot be knocked over

  • ensure good housekeeping at all times, eg avoid build-up of rubbish that could burn

  • consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start, eg installing smoke alarms and fire alarms or bells

  • have the correct fire-fighting equipment for putting a fire out quickly

  • keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed at all times

  • ensure your workers receive appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills

  • review and update your risk assessment regularly.

For detailed information, see the Fire Safety Management topic.

5. Hazardous substances (new entry)

Hazardous substances are largely regulated in the UK by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Substances hazardous to health can take many forms and include chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, mists, nanotechnology, gases and asphyxiating gases, biological agents, and certain germs.

For in-depth information, see the COSHH topic.

Advice

For any health and safety advice, please call a qualified health and safety consultant on 0844 561 8149.

Last reviewed 10 January 2019