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Supporting Small Businesses

Support for Small Businesses is a key theme proposed by the HSE’s new Health and Safety strategy and one we feel we must address.

Unfortunately even in today’s heavily policed working environments Health and Safety issues continue to arise and many accidents still occur with those most at risk of injury and particularly of falls from height being individuals working in small businesses.

Only this month we read of the tragic incident in which Richard Perry at Whiteghyll Plastics fell to his death whilst attempting to block out roof lights. HSE investigators found that the firm had missed a number of opportunities to prevent the incident from occurring and failed to adequately supervise Perry and his colleague.

The errors made by Whiteghyll Plastics are symbolic of those made only too often in the industry – particularly in small businesses who often do not have the knowledge and understanding to implement such in depth health and safety procedures.

In its newest strategy, the HSE addresses the fact that small and medium sized businesses may sometimes require the assistance of larger businesses and intermediaries to better understand and manage their own health and safety risks. When we consider the incident above and the many others we so often read about external support could provide smaller companies with crucial insight and guidance of the risks that workers are surrounded by and how these risks can be minimalised.

At the same time it is vitally important that the laws and guidelines surrounding health and safety at work should be made easier for smaller companies to engage with and adopt.  As HSE Chair, Dame Judith Hackitt so rightly states, “Too much complexity and bureaucracy has built up around health and safety” – the many rules and regulations are so complex that businesses often lose sight of the common goal; the prevention of these tragic incidents.

The message needs to be more focused and to the point – creating simple, straightforward health and safety systems that are accessible to all of us, from the general public through to the seasoned professional.  Hopefully then we will see an end to these tragic preventable incidents.

For more information on supporting small employers, visit www.hse.gov.uk and find out how you can Help GB Work Well.