Elf ’n’ Safety – it’s a favorite whipping boy for a certain sort of newspaper. A casual observer may think it a waste of time. Think again. Employers take health and safety seriously for good reasons, and self-employed people should do the same. Whether you are a contract driver of heavy machinery or a freelance cleaner, you need to protect yourself from injuries. An avoidable accident could cut off your income in a moment.
What Does the Law Say?
If the work you do might involve a risk to members of the public, you are subject to Health and Safety Legislation and you must carry out risk assessments and take precautions. If there is no risk to others, you are not required by law to observe H&S procedures – but you would be foolish not to.
Insurers, on the whole, will work with you in the event of a claim. However, if you are injured as a result of your work and you cannot show your insurer that you have taken appropriate steps to prevent it, you may find it harder to negotiate a claim.
The heart of accident prevention is in the risk assessment. It need not be a hugely time-consuming task, and you can work through it step-by-step in a few hours.
Identify and list every thing that could cause harm to you or anyone else. Some people may have to worry about little more than poor posture and hot coffee, but if you work with equipment or chemicals, it will take a little longer.
Evaluate the risks. That means estimating how likely something is to happen, and how serious the consequences would be if it did. Cutting your finger on a sharp edge may be quite likely, but would not have serious results. Cutting your finger off may be much less likely, but would be much more serious.
List the risks in order of priority, starting with the most serious accidents that are most likely to happen, like falling off a ladder. Then work through all the higher risks, and identify what steps you will take to reduce them.
The precautions you take against accident are likely to involve either the right equipment or the right procedures, or both.
Usually, you can start with the right clothing for your job. For instance, using cutting equipment will require a whole outfit to prevent blades making contact with any part of your body, while handling potentially dangerous contaminants will involve having the correct grade of disposable gloves for protection of your hands.
Write down the procedures that you will follow for looking after yourself. If using dangerous equipment attend a proper training course and keep a copy of the rules. Understand the safety features of all your machinery.
A Successful Business is a Safe Business
Every self-employed person wants their business to be a success and to provide a steady income. Accidents will disrupt that plan, possibly for ever. Taking health and safety seriously is one of the most important steps any tradesman can take in building a career.