top of page

Health and Safety Guide for Small Businesses

Welcome to our blog on "Health and Safety Guide for Small Businesses"! As a small business owner, you know how important it is to provide a safe and healthy work environment for your employees. Not only does it promote productivity and morale, but it also ensures compliance with various regulations and reduces the risk of accidents and injuries.

However, navigating the world of health and safety can be overwhelming, especially for those who are just starting out. That's why we've put together this comprehensive guide to help you understand the key principles of workplace health and safety and provide practical tips and advice for implementing them in your small business.

So, whether you're a new business owner or an experienced entrepreneur, read on to learn how to keep your workplace safe and healthy for everyone.

What is the purpose of a health and safety policy?

As an employer, it is your legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment for your employees, visitors, suppliers, customers, and anyone else who comes onto your premises.

A health and safety policy outlines your commitment to maintaining a safe workplace, as well as the procedures and guidelines for achieving this goal. Having a health and safety policy not only helps you to identify how you will meet your legal obligations but also demonstrates to your employees that you take their health and safety seriously.

A health and safety policy shows that you are proactive in identifying and mitigating exposure to workplace hazards and that you are committed to creating a safe and healthy work environment for your employees. In short, having a health and safety policy is an important step in ensuring the well-being of your employees and the success of your small business.

Do I need a health and safety policy?

UK law states that all businesses must have a Health and Safety policy. If your business has five or more employees, you are legally required to document your health and safety policy in writing. However, even if your business employs fewer than five individuals, it is still recommended to document your policy in writing, as it can serve as a useful reference and training tool for employees.

Having a written policy also helps to demonstrate your commitment to health and safety in the workplace, which can benefit your business by promoting a positive and safe work environment, as well as by reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Assessing risk

It is a common misconception to think that your business is low risk, but accidents can happen anywhere. According to ROSPA, 700 people die from falls on stairs each year in England alone, and in 2020 948 accidental deaths were attributed to falls in Scotland.

According to a recent Forbes report Chefs, Care Workers, Retail workers, and nursing assistant roles are all more dangerous than being a prison officer

Forbes Dangerous Jobs List


Health and safety obligations for employers

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of your employees and anyone else who may be affected by your business operations.

According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, you must at least:

  • Identify potential hazards in your workplace that could cause harm or illness.

  • Evaluate the likelihood and severity of harm that could result from those hazards.

  • Take necessary measures to eliminate the hazards, or if not possible, control the risks.

Assessing and managing risks is a critical part of ensuring a safe working environment for your employees. For small and low-risk businesses, the steps required to comply with these regulations are relatively straightforward and here we’ve outlined a few key points:

Health and safety – the basics

So, we’ve established that all businesses need a policy for managing health and safety. This policy outlines your company's overall approach to health and safety, and details how you, as an employer, will implement and maintain health and safety practices within your organization.

The policy should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all individuals involved in the process, including who will be responsible for specific tasks, when those tasks will be carried out, and the methods by which they will be accomplished. So, make sure you:

  • Appoint a competent person to help manage health and safety in your business. A competent person is someone with knowledge, experience, and training to undertake the task.

  • Involve workers, and make sure health and safety is everyone’s priority.

  • Display a health and safety law poster, or provide each worker with an equivalent leaflet.

Our blog What Should a Health and Safety Policy Include? is an informative guide on how to write a compliant health and safety policy. It looks at the three main areas it should cover

  1. Statement of intent

  2. Responsibilities for health and safety

  3. Arrangements for health and safety

By having a clear and comprehensive health and safety policy in place, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of your employees and visitors, while also protecting your business from potential liabilities.

Health and safety contractual obligations

As an employer, you bear the legal responsibility for any health and safety breaches committed by your staff. UK health and safety legislation requires you to carry out everything that is reasonably practicable to reduce exposure to anything that may cause harm.

Therefore, it is crucial to include specific provisions for health and safety in their employment contracts, particularly outlining that breaches will be considered as disciplinary offences.

By doing so, you can ensure that your employees understand their responsibilities for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment and the consequences of failing to adhere to them. These provisions also make it clear that you take health and safety seriously and are committed to upholding high standards in your workplace.

Remember, effective communication and training on health and safety policies can also go a long way in preventing violations and promoting a culture of safety in your organisation.

Who sets health and safety laws?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overall responsibility for the creation and upkeep of health and safety laws. It is also responsible for enforcement across some industry sectors, such as:

  • Hospitals and nursing homes

  • Factories and construction sites

  • Schools and colleges

  • Government organisations

Local authority environmental health departments are responsible for

  • Restaurants

  • Hotels

  • Sheltered accommodation and care homes

  • Nurseries and playgroups

  • Leisure premises

Health and safety inspections

A health and safety inspector can visit a workplace at any time, they can even arrive without warning. They will look at your health and safety procedures and provide advice and guidance. They will want to talk with your employees as well. Full details about what to expect can be found in the leaflet When a health and safety inspector calls.

Accredited health and safety training courses

If you’re investing in health and safety training, we advise you to make sure it’s accredited – that way you can demonstrate a firm commitment to health and safety at your workplace.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the Chartered body and largest membership organisation for health and safety professionals in the UK.

The National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) provides internationally recognised health, safety, and environmental qualifications

As a general guide, the training courses offered by IOSH concentrate on offering practical guidance for managing health and safety in the workplace. Whereas, NEBOSH's qualifications focus more on providing a deep understanding of health and safety principles and practices, and they require substantial preparation and study.

Typically, IOSH certifications are aimed at non-health and safety personnel who seek to enhance their workplace efficiency and manage risks and resources. In contrast, NEBOSH is intended for health and safety professionals who are already established in the industry or wish to advance their careers by achieving high-level professional certifications.

Ultimately, your specific requirements and career objectives will determine whether you should opt for IOSH or NEBOSH.

IOSH Managing Safely

The IOSH Managing Safely course is ideal for those who may or may not have direct responsibility for health and safety, or those working in a low-risk industry. It looks at health and safety practices and procedures and is designed for people who want to ensure the safety of themselves and their colleagues in the workplace

Learn how to:

  • Identify your responsibilities and accountabilities.

  • Know when to act and when not to act.

  • Understand if an issue needs your attention, or if you need to escalate to Senior Management.

  • Introduction to Managing Safely Assessing Risks


  • Introduction to Managing Safely

  • Assessing Risks

  • Controlling Risks

  • Understanding Responsibilities

  • Understanding Hazards

  • Investigating Incidents

  • Measuring Performance

Supportive Solutions approach

We provide a wide range of training courses including IOSH and NEBOSH accredited courses. Our comprehensive suite of health and safety training courses includes:

  • IOSH Working Safely

  • IOSH Managing Safely

  • IOSH Leading Safely

  • Manual Handling of People or Objects

  • First Aid

  • Mental Health First Aid

  • Fire Awareness

  • Food Safety Level 2

  • Health and Safety including COSHH and Risk Assessment

  • Infection Protection Control

Our courses are designed to ensure that you and your team stay compliant with the latest health and safety regulations. Whether you're looking to upskill your staff or need specific training to comply with regulatory requirements, our courses are tailored to meet your needs.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you achieve compliance and improve your health and safety standards.


Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page