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Unit 29 - Health and Safety In A Business Environment

Updated on January 4, 2016

1.1 State health and safety responsibilities of employers

All employers have responsibility for the health and safety of their employees as well as for any visitors to the business. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a legislation that has clear guidelines about the general duties of employers to employees when it comes to health and safety.

H&S responsibilities of employers:

  • To provide and maintain a safe and risk-free working environment (this includes carrying out regular risk assessments, audits and booking PAT tests)
  • To produce a health and safety policy for the organisation
  • To provide necessary training and information on a regular basis about health and safety to ensure all employees are safe
  • To ensure any health and safety risks or hazards are dealt with quickly and fully
  • To provide clean drinking water and suitable sanitary facilities
  • To provide first aid facilities
  • To ensure that warning signs including emergency exit signs are provided
  • To ensure that lighting, heating and ventilation are adequate and within the health and safety requirements
  • To ensure that work spaces are of a correct size compared to the amount of people that will be working within them (at least 11 cubic metres per person)
  • To enable employees to take rest breaks and holidays within their entitlement

1.2 State their own responsibilities for health and safety in the business environment

Employees are required to take care of their own health and safety. This means that issues to do with health and safety should be reported to an employer immediately. If an area is of high danger, employees have the right to stop working there. Employees should also be aware of other people’s health and safety; keeping areas clean and clutter-free is an example of taking care of personal as well as other people’s health and safety as dirty, unclean areas can cause illness and areas with clutter on the floor create trip hazards.

1.3 State the occupational health and safety guidelines to be followed when using a keyboard and visual display unit

When using a keyboard and/or a visual display unit, it is important to always follow health and safety guidelines to somewhat avoid ill health. There are many different types of visual display units such as mobile phones and tablets; however within a workplace one of the most commonly used are computers.

It is important to know how to use a keyboard and a mouse properly to reduce injury. A ‘Neutral Wrist Position’ should always be used and a wrist rest should be used on either the keyboard or mouse, or both. Wrist rests somewhat prevent dorsiflexion which is when the wrists are used pointing upwards. It is important that the chair being used at the computer is of the correct height. Your feet should be firmly on the floor and your back should be straight. It is important to take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. Attention should be focused on something non-work related and should last for a minimum of five minutes.

The computer monitor should be at a comfortable position, and about 20 or more inches away, slightly lower than eye level. This keeps your neck in a more natural position and helps to take strain off of the eyes. The brightness of the monitor should also be similar to that of the environment.

Computer related injuries:

  • Repetitive Strain Injury (complications due to repetitive movement and overuse)
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (an injury due to repetitiveness and stress)
  • Computer Vision Syndrome (eye problem: reduced eyesight, blurred vision etc)
  • Musculoskeletal problems (e.g. back strain)

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 gives guidelines to employers to protect employees from risks caused by using display screen equipment, otherwise known as visual display units.

1.4 Explain the importance of complying with health and safety requirements

It is important as a business to follow health and safety requirements as although it keeps people safe, it also protects against legal action and fines.

If an employer does not follow the health and safety requirements and a customer or employee becomes injured, they may be brought to court. (This in itself involves expenditure due to lawyers.) If found guilty of breeching or ignoring health and safety requirements a fine will need to be paid and in some cases jail time will need to be done. If the incident is made public usual customers may then decide to not use the business anymore and if regular health and safety incidents occur the business/organisation will be closed down.

Identify possible health and safety hazards in the business environment

A hazard- something that can cause harm

There are many different health and safety hazards within the business environment. As seen in 1.3, computers provide a hazard and all members of staff using them should be given instructions on how to do so safely. All electrics and equipment are seen as potential risks so should pass their function and/or PAT tests yearly. If something is wrong with an electrical item it should be reported immediately. All members of staff should be made aware of this fault for their own safety. Poor lighting and housekeeping are also seen as hazards. If the lighting is dim, vision may be limited therefore injury is of a higher risk. It is important that all areas are kept clean and tidy.

Hazards within the office:

  • Environment hazards: poor lighting, poor ventilation, poor housekeeping
  • Electrical and equipment hazards (e.g. incorrect use of a computer)
  • Kitchen hazards: hot liquid/food, spills, out-of-date products, electrical and equipment hazards e.g. kettle and water-electric shock
  • Reception: abusive customers

Within my work place, there are many different health and safety hazards. I work in a Doctors surgery so as well as the usual everyday hazards; there are also surgical items to be careful of.

Other possible hazards within my workplace:

  • SHARPS (medical instruments that are sharp/may cause punctures)
  • COSHH (control of substances hazardous to health)
  • Risk of infection or illness from other patients
  • Bodily samples

Describe ways in which accidents can be avoided in the business environment

Health and safety policies and procedures should always be followed to avoid accidents. Employees should be trained regarding the safe and correct use of equipment and should be aware of the code of conduct. Regular risk assessments should take place and if a hazard is found it should be reported immediately. All electrical items should be PAT tested at least every 48 months. PAT tests (Portable Appliance Testing) determine whether a piece of equipment is in a safe condition for use. Fire exit signs, including emergency lighting, should be installed above all convenient exits and all fire exits should not be obstructed. Any fire /burglar alarm systems should be tested regularly.

Risk assessments- a risk assessment is a process which involves identifying hazards and finding ways to either eliminate or control them. Risk assessments should take place when new equipment is provided/installed, when an employee is pregnant or breastfeeding, if an incident occurs and when new information is provided about Health and Safety.

Within my workplace, there is a high risk of infection. Any members of staff examining patients should wear Personal Protective Equipment and should handle and dispose of SHARPS/COSHH/bodily samples in the correct way. If patients have a ‘high risk infection’ they will be placed within an enclosed room instead of the waiting room to avoid passing the infection to other people. All staff members are asked to use antibacterial hand gel and patients are advised to do the same.

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