A Health and Safety Guide for Small Business
It all started with an excited student requesting the opportunity to work with us as an intern as part of her scholarship plan over the summer. The excitement was reciprocated as here was the perfect applicant to undertake a research project that we had started the previous year. She said that she would need to get some clearance from the university to be able to join my start-up company.
Next thing was the phone call – all very pleasant and pleased that the student would clearly be involved in a research project that would mean she would have to interview managers and put her research skills to practical use. Then came the forms. A long list of requirements under health and safety. Red tape? NO- Just a black and white email with a stream of requests. Did I have employers liability insurance (uhhh no, no employees, only consultants working with me) What about public liability insurance (not that either –as a service business I did not deem it necessary). And the written health and safety policy (despite the law only requiring a company with over 5 employers having to put a written policy in place) And, the cherry on the top: the risk assessment… well more of that in a minute.
For a while I stared incredulously at the requests. Then I thought, well it could be good opportunity – despite UK Health and Safety requirements being draining to say the least. And finally I thought, we’ll see what my insurance brokers for my PI cover could do. Very helpfully the brokers came up with a great offer: for less than £100 pounds I would have employers liability and public liability insurance in place. Tick number one.
So I thought about the health and safety policy – I advocate best practice to companies, and should therefore consider taking some of my own medicine. An evening spent writing up the policy. Sobering -as it really hits home what responsibilities would fall to me if something were to happen. Tick number two.
Which brings me to the risk assessment. A small converted office, a large dining room table in the conservatory where our team meets about once a week. What risks could there be? I called my associate- she thought that inspecting the conservatory was a good start. Actually, I started with the fire extinguisher and the smoke alarms. Casting my eyes around the conservatory they fell on the clothes pegs with the dangling bra and knickers –a risk to the easily offended, perhaps. Noted. And the cat- of course, she was a risk. The wires – all safe and where they should be. The table – not perfect ergonomically speaking but as no one was doing sustained work at it we should be OK.
To make things worse I had accidentally ticked that my intern would need immunisation in one of the various forms, which is simply not the case (…unless the cat could have rabies?). There is no need to relay the panic which ensued from the university’s side following this little mishap.
The point of it all – the cat and the bra risk assessment, the insurance, and the policy? I realized that it actually means the right structures are now in place to let my business grow. Tick number three.
All thanks to you, anonymous university.