According to the Health and Safety Executive, a ‘hazard’ is anything that may cause harm – for example, via chemicals, working from a height or working with electricity. It’s OK to ask workers to perform tasks where such hazards can occur, but you have a legal obligation to ensure their well being while they’re performing those tasks. Here are three things to think about to ensure your workers’ health and safety is safeguarded.
- Conduct a risk assessment
The first thing you should do if you’re asking workers to undertake hazardous tasks is to complete a thorough risk assessment. That’s because the COSSH Regulations (the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) require employers to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health of the worker, as well as ensuring that steps are taken to reduce the likelihood of illness or injury occurring.
As the Health and Safety Executive rightly points out, “a risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace”. So, begin by:
- Identifying the hazards your workers face
- Deciding who could be harmed and how
- Evaluating the risks
- Deciding on the precautions to be taken
- Recording significant findings
- Reviewing and updating your assessments if necessary.
- Gather permits to work
Another way to bolster the health and safety of your workers is to consider permits to work. Permits ensure that the right person is authorised to carry out specific task within a specified time frame, and you should consider using permit to work software from a reputable supplier, such as airsweb, if:
a) you’re in charge of safeguarding the health and safety of contractors as well as employees
b) you’re in charge of the safety of employees and contractors in multiple locations.
That’s because the software will help you validate certificates and qualifications (particularly useful if you’re working with a body of contractors that changes from week to week), as well as enabling you to create job-specific permit templates to make work processes more efficient. Above all else, it will ensure you have full visibility regarding permits at all times, and enable you to work in a consistent, auditable manner.
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment
Finally, if your workers are performing hazardous tasks, it’s likely you’ll need to provide them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). That’s because you won’t be able to eliminate all the hazards your workers face, even after conducting a risk assessment and ensuring they’re qualified to do the job. For example, your workers might need to perform their roles in contaminated air, or their skin may come into contact with corrosive materials. That’s where PPE comes in, reducing the risk associated with the hazards your workers face.
The kind of PPE you need to provide them with will depend on the task you’re asking them to perform, but it generally refers to items such as eye protection, high-visibility clothing, helmets, safety harnesses and respiratory equipment. You’ll need to provide it to your employees free of charge, and it’s essential that you’ve ensured your workers know to use it properly and are able to detect and report any faults they’ve found with it.
Those are just three things you can do to ensure worker safety when hazardous tasks are being carried out. For more advice, and more information on the suggestions above, be sure to visit the Health and Safety Executive’s website.