Business & compliance advice

What is meant by health and safety in the workplace?

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
20th April 2021
Health and Safety in the Workplace

In this article, we discuss the definition of workplace health and safety, what it means for employers, and why risk assessments are important

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Occupational health and safety focuses on: 

  • Promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social wellbeing of workers in all occupations
  • Prevention of worker absence due to poor health caused by their working conditions
  • Protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health
  • Assessment of an employee’s occupational environment, and adapting to their physiological and psychological capabilities

Two things are clear. Workplace health and safety is about promoting positive wellbeing, in terms of their comfort, happiness and contentment not simply preventing people from getting ill and having accidents. And it places several serious responsibilities on employers.

Employers’ health and safety duties

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees whilst at work. 

All businesses must identify the hazards within the workplace and assess the risks from those hazards and implement control measures to mitigate those risks. This is defined in law under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. All businesses must carry out risk assessments, however, where you have 5 employees or less these do not have to be written down. It is generally best practice do document this though in order to be able to communicate it effectively. 

There is a legal requirement also under the health and safety at work act to have a written health and safety policy, which includes steps on how to implement the policy. Employers must provide the relevant training as part of the implementation process. For most small, low-risk businesses just a few straightforward measures are all that’s needed. 

One key reason for a business to look after the well-being of its employees is that it can enhance productivity and loyalty. People with health problems are more likely to be absent from work, less productive when in work, and more likely to leave. 

Definition of occupational health

Occupational health has been defined as “enabling people to undertake their occupation in a way that causes the least harm to their health.” 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is too narrow, because health means much more: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Occupational health problems are extremely common, as shown by the latest government figures (2019):

  • 1.6 million work-related ill health cases.
  • 0.8 million work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases.
  • Half a million work-related musculoskeletal disorder cases.
  • 38.8 million working days lost due to work-related ill health.
  • £16 billion annual costs of workplace injury.

So, when business owners ask "what does health and safety mean for me?" the answer is this: keeping your employees safe, ensuring that staff have the appropriate training and information, which in turn improves morale, efficiency, and leads to a healthy business.

What is a health and safety risk assessment?

As with health, employers are responsible for the physical safety of employees and anyone else who visits the workplace. This means making sure the relevant safety regulations are carefully followed. 

A risk assessment is not just a means to ensure you are complying with the law. It is a 5 step process:

  1. Identify all the things within your business that could cause a person harm (the hazards)
  2. Identify who could be harmed and assess how they could be harmed (the risk)
  3. Implement control measures to mitigate those risks (what are you going to do to prevent the harm)
  4. Review the risk assessment when there are any changes
  5. Record your findings

A risk assessment is not a one-off process and must be completed with the employees and you must consult with them and gain their input for them to be suitable and sufficient.

It is an extremely important document that ensures you have done everything “reasonably practicable” as a business to ensure the safety of your employees and helps you to demonstrate this if ever required to the relevant authorities or insurers.

The main purpose of all risk assessment is to communicate hazards and risks to your employees, to highlight awareness so people understand these hazards and what preventative steps you have done to stop them from happening.

Examples of the main health and safety issues employers face include:

Manual handling

UK employers must ensure that workers who manually lift, carry, push or pull any load are given adequate information and training on manual handling at work. At Phoenix, we offer a specialist manual handling awareness e-learning course to help employers meets this legal obligation.

Manual handling forms part of most people’s roles, even within an office environment, so all employees should receive manual handling awareness training as a minimum.

Risk assessments are a legal requirement under the specific Manual Handling Regulations.

Display equipment

Users of computers and other display screen equipment (DSE) must have adequate training on using their devices and workstations safely. The Phoenix computer safety e-learning course meets this legal requirement, helping employers to reduce the risks of ill-health caused by using DSE. It goes on to describe the health and safety requirements of the work area, including seat height and working with a mouse and keyboard.

A user would be anyone using DSE equipment for an hour or more continuously each day.

Risk assessments are a legal requirement under the specific DSE regulations.

Fire safety

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires all employers to provide employees with sufficient information and training on fire safety. Phoenix fire safety courses include the NEBOSH Fire Certificate and the online Fire Safety & Risk Assessment course.

Risk assessment are a legal requirement under the RRFSO.

Stress and mental health

Employers are responsible for protecting the mental health of their employees as well as their physical well-being. This includes stress associated with work. Phoenix offers an online stress awareness course for managers, supervisors and employees, helping them identify and prevent the causes of work-related stress before it leads to ill-health and sickness absence.

The issues mentioned above are covered in detail by most health and safety in the workplace courses. As a leading provider, we also offer courses focused on specific industries, such as the NEBOSH Certificate in Construction Health and Safety.

Who are the main health and safety organisations?

Leading providers of health and safety training work closely with the key national and international health and safety organisations. 

The two most prominent internationally recognised organisations are NEBOSH and IOSH.

NEBOSH courses

NEBOSH is the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health. Phoenix Health & Safety is accredited to offer its full range of courses. 

Each NEBOSH course is designed to provide managers, supervisors and employees with the skills and know-how to deal with a variety of health and safety issues. Together, they cover a range of training needs for a variety of industries. 

There are international NEBOSH courses and qualifications, which can be studied with Phoenix via distance learning.

IOSH courses

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the principal body for health and safety employees in Europe. Each year, almost 120,000 people from a variety of industries attend IOSH training courses.

Phoenix offers three comprehensive IOSH training courses, suitable for employees, managers and senior managers respectively:

How to avoid health and safety problems

Companies are regularly prosecuted following accidents in the workplace. When the HSE reports on these prosecutions the same few mistakes constantly recur failures to assess risks accurately and plan tasks correctly, neglecting to provide the right training and supervision. These problems are mentioned time and time again.

The conclusion is clear. When it comes to avoiding health and safety problems, having the right procedures, systems and training in place is essential. 

Choose the right training courses from an expert provider such as Phoenix and you’re on your way to successfully managing health and safety in the workplace.