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As an employer, you're obliged to adhere to an almost stifling array of health and safety protocols to ensure that your employees can work safely without fear of injury. To maintain a safe environment, however, takes diligence and a pro-active approach to health and safety management.

At Your Legal Friend, we handle thousands of work accident compensation cases where we see the same issues arising time and again. Among the most common causes of injury in the workplace are a lack of sufficient training, the provision of improper equipment, mismanaged or neglected health and safety practices as well as defective or hazardous plant and machinery.

A recent press release from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) describes how a road resurfacing company was fined £15,400 after one of their employees was run over by a road roller. An employee, driving the vehicle, reversed the roller over the leg of a fellow employee at Knockbreck Road, Straiton in South Ayrshire, during road resurfacing work.

Investigation by the HSE found that the flashing beacon and reversing alarm fitted to the vehicle was not working. In this case, simple checks by a site manager to ensure the equipment was working and suitable for use would have prevented this accident from occurring.

It's crucial then for employers to properly manage their work, booking in routine inspections and checks to ensure that health and safety guidelines are complied with and to proactively look for any ‘gaps' in current practice. One particularly useful activity here is training; if your workforce is properly educated about the dangers of their work and they have this training re-delivered to them regularly, they can help you to identify potential health and safety dangers before they lead to an incident.

While training may raise general awareness of hazards and potential dangers, it doesn't ensure that machines, tools and workplace education are checked and logged. You should have a nominated person in the firm who is responsible for recording the delivery of training and for ensuring that all employees are taught the basics. A record should also be set up, listing all the safety checks necessary to ensure a safe working environment. These checks could involve the testing and maintenance of machinery, ensuring that walkways and exits are clear and that enough protective equipment is available for anyone that needs it. For firms who are involved in project work, this may involve building ‘safety' into project plans and workflows.

With training and safety bedded into your working culture, it still makes sense to ‘test' your setup regularly. Arrange for routine health and safety inspections to ensure that your procedures meet the required standards, and to learn whether improvements can be made. Health and Safety inspectors will have seen all manner of procedures, policies and accidents so make the most of their time by drawing upon this expertise. If you can evidence a commitment to continuous improvement, not only will this prevent accidents from happening, but if one does, you will have a great deal of evidence to rely on to demonstrate that you were proactive and that you take employee safety very seriously.

When accidents do happen, it's important that you follow procedure and handle the incident quickly and sympathetically. If necessary, seek medical help for any victims of the accident and ensure that it is safe for others to continue working. Once the immediate aftermath is dealt with, record the incident in an ‘accident book' and add as much detail as you can, you will need the employees involved to check the record and to sign off on this too. The accident book can be used as evidence in the event of legal action or during an investigation, so this step is crucial. Once complete, manage any resulting discussions with those affected; will they need to take time off work? Will they need additional training? Make sure these conversations are logged and that the outcomes are noted, where any resulting actions are followed up. Assuming your employee's needs are met after an incident, it's important to take stock and to try and understand what went wrong and why, as this can highlight failings in your current health and safety procedures that can be improved upon.

While accidents and fatalities at work are in decline, they do still occur, and the vast majority of them are preventable. So, where employer negligence leads to a life-changing injury or even death, it's not uncommon for those responsible to serve time in prison for their negligence

While it's never the intent to alarm or scare people into revisiting their practices, there's a wealth of information on  the Your Legal Friend site , as well as helpful checklists available courtesy of the HSE.