Frequently Asked Questions
The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974 section 2(1) places a responsibility upon the employer to:
"...ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
The act and other health and safety regulations explicitly demand that the employer provides information, instruction, training and supervision.
The implications for an employer neglecting to do this can be both direct financial losses due to accidents, and the possible legal actions that might ensue. A programme of employee training to develop a safe working environment can be both time and cost effective. Training raises awareness and understanding and is a vital element in any commitment to staff development and well-being.
Who should be trained?
Everyone in the workplace has a part to play in Health and Safety, and therefore requires training. Training should be compulsory for all levels of staff to ensure a thorough level of understanding throughout the organisation.
Commitment from management is essential to the success of any training programme and senior staff should not be exempt from health and safety training. Likewise, those on fixed term contracts, and trainees, should not be forgotten.
Adequate time must be allowed for training. Feedback from staff is important so that the training does not remain in isolation. Staff training must be presented as an essential part of working procedures and not merely because it is required by law.
Timing of training
The training should cover the following stages in employment, as a minimum:
- New employee induction and those transferring between departments.
- Job specific training for new starters.
- Training to cover changes of job or new skills.
- Safe operating procedures for new processes or equipment.
Content of information & training: management & supervisory staff
Managers and supervisors need to understand the framework of the law, and the detailed specific requirements that relate to their own work area. They need to be able to undertake or revise risk assessments as necessary, and devise and implement systems which will ensure that control measures are maintained in efficient order. They also need to identify situations in which they need to instigate special training and procedures - such as for entry into confined spaces, work at height, work with ionising radiation.
Management responsibilities include:
- Setting health and safety policy for the organisation.
- Undertaking or revising risk assessments, and devising and implementing safe and legal systems of work.
- Ensuring that the work equipment is of a suitable standard.
- Understanding the specific laws and rules pertaining to the company's operations.
- Investigating incidents and implementing corrective actions.
- Disciplinary procedures.
- Motivating employees to be involved in health and safety issues.
- Setting up emergency procedures, to include fire evacuation as a minimum, and the content of their training will need to cover the knowledge and skills required to discharge these responsibilities, and the ability to recognise when they will need to call for expert assistance.
Content of information & training: technical and operational staff
All employees must be provided with relevant and comprehensive information on the risks to their health and safety in the workplace, and methods of control involved. This must include:
- Hazards of the workplace, to include the mechanical, physical and chemical hazards (to include the content of the MSDSs and the hazards of fume).
- The consequences of exposure to the hazards, and any factors which might increase it, e.g. smoking.
- How to avoid hazards.
- How to minimise the hazards, e.g. by modifying welding current, selection of consumables to minimise fume generation.
- Information from manufacturers and suppliers.
- The control measures to be adopted, the reasons for them and their proper use, including how LEV hoods work and how they can be used to give good fume control.
- How to use any personal protective equipment supplied, including RPE where appropriate.
- Any exposure limits, for example to noise, substances hazardous to health, vibration.
- Any monitoring procedures used, and the results.
- The testing, adjustment, cleaning and changing of such disposable or cleanable items as filters.
- The limitations of all forms of control measures, and the actions to be taken if the control measures fail or cease to be effective.
- The role of health surveillance, the employee's duty to attend, and the collective results of any group surveillance.
- Emergency plans, to include at the very least, fire evacuation.
Some jobs require specific training before they can be safely executed. This should involve:
- Skills training.
- An understanding of the operation and limitations of the equipment that is used.
- Explanation of safety regulations which apply.
- Understanding of the nature of the hazards.
- Demonstration of personal protective equipment.
- Acquiring and handing over any required documentation, for example, work permits or safety booklets.
- Review of emergency procedures relevant to the job and location.
Health and safety training should be:
- Easy to understand.
- Appropriate to individual needs (which may include disabled staff, and those with learning difficulties).
The basic aim of all health and safety training is to ensure that no person working on the premises endangers him/herself or others. It should instil a commitment to working methods that improve health and safety for themselves and others. Persons must also be capable of acting appropriately in the event of an emergency.
Specialised training needs
There are several specialised training needs, which are common to most work places:
- First Aiders.
- Driver/operator training for which certification may be required, e.g. fork-lift truck operation.
- Manual handling.
- Display screen equipment (DSE) user.
- Abrasive wheel changing.
- Press and guillotine operators.
- Safety representatives.
Management and employee involvement in safety training
It should be emphasised that training is a two-way process, involving employee responsibility to the employer as well as vice versa. Training for health and safety should foster and encourage safety considerations for oneself and others. Training also provides an opportunity for discussion and review of the company safety arrangements. As well as instruction in national, local and organisational regulations, it should make employees more aware of their organisational role and feel free to discuss/criticise the training given and their individual needs.
Unless the training culminates in a test to prove that the trainee has assimilated the material, it is strongly recommended that every trainee is provided with a summary of the essential safety instructions, to be retained for future reference and revision. Where there is a written (or diagrammatic) safe operating procedure (Safe System of Work), this must be provided. For more general safety topics, for example, manual handling, proprietary guidance pamphlets are available, or the trainer can provide 'bullet' point lists etc.
At the end of training all personnel should know:
- The risks that are involved.
- What precautions to take.
- Which cleaning, storage and disposal procedures are required and how to take them.
- Emergency procedures.
- How to use personal protective equipment (PPE).
- The importance of reporting defects in equipment and systems of work.
- The importance of complying with Health and Safety procedures.
- The importance of reporting any accident (however minor) to a supervisor.
Note that all safety instructions and procedures are to be subject to review, so adequate identification and control is needed on all documentation to ensure obsolete copies can be identified and destroyed.
Records of training
In the unfortunate event of an accident or dangerous occurence, an employer will need to be able to provide credible evidence that the training responsibilities have been discharged.
This can be done easily where training has been carried out by accredited instructors and an individual certificate has been issued. It is always prudent for the employer to keep a copy of any such certificates, in case the originals are mislaid.
For less formal training, the employer should keep a record of the syllabus used and signatures from everyone trained, to indicate at the very least that the training was given, and the training material was provided.
- Health & Safety for Busy Managers: Law, Risks and Liabilities Ann T. Holder Technical Communications 1995
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 - L5 Approved Code of Practice and Guidance
- Principles of Health and Safety at Work, Author: Allan St John Holt
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999. L21 Approved Code of Practice and Guidance
- Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989