Questions clients ask

These are a few of the questions we’ve been asked recently.  As they tend to come up again and again we thought it might help more of you to have an easy check point to find out what you want to know.

As a small business owner, do I need to have written policies and documentation relating to health and safety?

The law says that if you five or more employees (including yourself) you must have written policies, procedures, risk assessments and safe systems of work.  If you have fewer than five employees, technically, you don’t need written material.

But – and it’s a big ‘BUT’ – you need to be able to prove that the policies exist, even if they are not written down.  In effect that means that every member of staff will need to be able to verbalise them should there be an inspection.  Whilst, in a low risk business, the policies and procedures don’t need to be complicated – it’s so much easier to write them down.  It will save time, effort and hassle!

Can I have too many fire extinguishers?

Yes!  Many fire extinguisher suppliers offer ‘free’ fire risk assessments, resulting in the sales of many unnecessary extinguishers.  You don’t need a fire extinguisher beside every single fire risk (big or small).

When a fire occurs the first action should be to raise the alarm to get everyone to safety and summon the emergency services.  Then you would collect the appropriate extinguisher, from a ‘Fire Point’ and attempt to put the fire out, with a single extinguisher (if one doesn’t work it’s NOT a small fire) always keeping an escape route behind you.  There certainly should not be more fire extinguishers than absolutely necessary in an area.  The aim is as few as possible and as many as necessary – commensurate with the risk.

It’s worth getting unbiased expert advice if you’re not sure what’s best.

Why can’t you lift more than 25 kgs for a man and 16 kgs for a woman?

This is not actually the law, it’s guidance.  The bigger the weight to be lifted, the bigger the risk.  In normal circumstances most men are stronger than most women, but there are strong women and weak men.  If you step outside guideline weights you should carry out a personal risk assessment.  It’s about capability and you should lift with your head (think first), not with your back.

Use TILE to help you assess the risk:

  • ·         Task – consider the task
  • ·          Individual – look at the capability of the person concerned
  • ·         Load – review the load (both weight and size/shape
  • ·         Environment – check out the environment for associated risk.

If one of your staff can snatch lift 150kgs in the gym, restricting them to 25kgs is not very realistic.  A safe margin is about 15-20% less in the workplace – so authorising them, after their assessment, to lift up 120kgs may be acceptable in this situation.  If in doubt, stick to the guidance.

What do I do if I can’t sell my apartment without a fire risk assessment for the common areas outside my apartment?

Just recently we’ve had a few calls from solicitors who are finding it difficult to complete the conveyancing on a property where there are shared areas in a building – for instance, where a building has a number of apartments.

The law says that a fire risk assessment must be available for the public areas of the building and some apartment owners have no idea who owns the freehold or are unable to get in touch with the freehold owner to get this done.

Is this absolutely necessary?  Yes, unfortunately, it is and it can hold up a sale – and may even end up with a sale falling through.

It only applies where there are shared facilities, like entrance areas, staircases and hallways. 

If it is impossible to track down the freehold owner it is possible to have a fire risk assessment carried out on these areas.  It will cost you a couple of hundred pounds (in a typical building with 5-6 apartments), but may be the difference between a sale going through or falling through.