Health and Safety Checklist for Small Businesses

In 2019/20, 1.6m people suffered from a work-related illness, 693,000 sustained an injury and 111 were killed. These official figures for workplaces in Great Britain highlight the importance of health and safety and show why it’s an issue that small business owners should not ignore. Understand your health and safety obligations as a small business owner with our health and safety checklist.

Good health and safety practices don’t just protect employees and others; they’re good for business too. Around 38.8m working days are lost every year due to illnesses and injuries, resulting in an estimated £16.2bn in business costs. Your customers expect that you will manage fire, health and safety risks.

Complying with health and safety laws and guidance can seem complex for small businesses. It’s much simpler if you break tasks down into smaller steps and develop a health and safety checklist or system for your organisation.

Understand your responsibilities under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the importance of a risk assessment in keeping employees, customers and others in your workplace safe with our managing safely training course.

Health and safety checklist for small businesses

1. Appoint a competent person

The first step in your health and safety checklist is appointing a competent person or people to help you meet your responsibilities. They must have the right training, qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience to recognise hazards in the workplace and put measures in place to prevent employees and others from coming to harm.

The competent person can be yourself, one or more employees, someone from outside the organisation or a combination of all three.

Learn more about the main responsibilities of an appointed person with our expert guide.

2. Create a health and safety policy

All organisations are legally required to have a health and safety policy. This should detail how you will comply with the law and how your organisation’s health and safety procedures prevent employees and others from suffering harm in the workplace.

A health and safety policy should form part of your checklist.

A health and safety policy should form part of your checklist.

A health and safety policy should include three sections:

  • Statement of intent.
  • Responsibilities for health and safety.
  • Arrangements for health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive has a health and safety policy template to help you get started.

Businesses with five or more employees must have a written policy. Although organisations with under five employees do not need to write a policy down, the Health and Safety Executive says it is useful to do so and your customers may want to see it.

Learn more about what to include in your health and safety policies and procedures with our expert guide.

3. Carry out a risk assessment

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must assess the risks in their workplace and put a plan in place to prevent or control them. A risk assessment should follow these five steps:

1.    Identify the hazards and risks that could cause illness or injury.
2.    Decide who could be harmed and the types of harm they could suffer.
3.    Identify measures to remove the hazards or control the risks.
4.    Record the findings and implement the measures.
5.    Review the assessment to ensure it remains effective.

Risk assessments must be carried out for many situations, including manual handling, using hazardous substances and fire safety.

A health and safety compliance audit can help you understand how well you comply with your legal obligations for health and safety, identify any improvements and help refine your fire, health and safety system.

4. Consult employees

Consultation with all employees, including contractors, is an essential part of effective health and safety in the workplace. You are legally required to consult with employees about health and safety. You must tell them the results of risk assessments and the preventative and control measures you put in place.

There should be continual dialogue with your employees, and you should involve them in the decisions you make about health and safety and their responsibilities. Talk to them about their work, the risks they face, how training and information is provided and the need to report any concerns, accidents and incidents.

Large businesses usually manage employee communication through line managers and involve health and safety representatives or representatives of employee safety where there is no union recognition, but it may be easier to speak to employees directly as a small business when developing your health and safety checklist.

5. Provide health and safety training

Employers are legally required to identify and provide training to ensure that employees can carry out tasks safely and without risk to their health and safety of others.

Everyone at all levels, including senior managers, managers supervisors, employees contractors, and self-employed people, needs to have sufficient training and supervision.

Based on a training needs analysis and risk assessment training may be required as part of:

  • Induction training for new employees covering areas such as safe working practices, first aid and fire safety.
  • Workers changing roles, taking on new responsibilities or becoming exposed to new or increased risks.
  • Implementation of new equipment, systems of work or following organisational changes.
  • Inexperienced employees who are particularly at risk.
  • Employee and health and safety representatives.
  • Refresher training when a training needs analysis, risk assessment or accident investigation indicates a need.

For advice on selecting a health and safety awareness course, read our guide to choosing a health and safety course.

6. First aid in the workplace

Employers must make sure employees receive immediate help or medical attention if injured or taken ill at work. Employers must also conduct a first aid assessment, and where identified deliver first aid training to employees and provide adequate first aid facilities, equipment and personnel.

Health and safety training in the workplace should be a priority

Health and safety training in the workplace should be a priority.

An appointed person or people must be put in charge of first-aid arrangements, including looking after equipment and calling the emergency services if an incident or accident occurs. An appointed person does not need necessarily need first aid training but would benefit from training in their responsibilities.

Trained first aiders are necessary if a first aid needs assessment identifies a need.

Learn more about employers’ first aid responsibilities with our expert guide.

7. Display the official Health and Safety law poster

Under the Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989, employers must display the official health and safety law poster where workers can easily read it or provide them with the equivalent leaflet.

You can buy the poster and leaflet on the Health and Safety Executive website. The leaflet is also available as a free download.

8. Get employers’ liability insurance

By law, employers must have employers’ liability insurance from an authorised insurer. It will help you pay compensation if an employee is injured or gets ill because of their work. It must cover you for at least £5 million. You risk being fined £2,500 a day if you don’t have adequate insurance.

You may not need employers’ liability insurance if all your employees are related to you or are based overseas.

9. Record accidents and illnesses

Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), you must report certain workplace injuries, near-misses and cases of work-related disease to the Health and Safety Executive and appoint someone to undertake reporting.

Ensure all accidents and incidents are reported and investigated.

Ensure all accidents and incidents are reported and investigated.

By law, you must keep an accident book if you have more than ten employees and you should have some means of recording accidents and incidents at work to help manage risk and for defensibility purposes.

Learn more about employers’ responsibilities under RIDDOR with our expert guide.

Our Managing Safety Training online course ensures that employees know and understand what is required to manage safety in their area of responsibility.