What Cleaning Contractors Should Know about Health & Safety – Part III

Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963

In Health & Safety

Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963

This applies, primarily, to any work premises allowing access to members of the public for the purpose of sale of food and drink for immediate consumption. However, its main provisions cover general health and safety requirements.

Examples of these are:
Premises, including all furniture, fixtures, fittings and floors must be kept clean.
• A minimum height of 3.7m is required for all people working in the premises.
• The inside air temperature must be adequate and thermometers provided for staff to monitor temperature. The temperature must reach 16°C within one hour of work commencing.

• Premises should be adequately ventilated.
• Lighting must be adequate and appropriate.
• Toilet facilities for staff should be adequate and provide suitable lighting and ventilation.
• Employers must provide adequate washing facilities to staff as well as providing soap and drying facilities for the purpose. Facilities should also include hot and cold running water.
• Drinking water must be provided.
• Storage facilities for all clothing not worn at work.
• Handrails should be provided on staircases.
• All floors, stairs, steps and passages should be maintained and kept clear of obstructions.
• First aid facilities should be provided with its location and the name of the qualified person in charge of the equipment displayed clearly within the workplace. A trained first-aider is required by law if 150 or more persons are employed within the organisation.

Employers’ Liability (Defective Equipment) Act 1961

If an employer provides any piece of equipment to an employee and the employee suffers an injury as a result of a defect associated with the equipment, the employer is deemed “negligent” and can be liable to civil action by the employee.

However, after having paid any compensation, costs and/or damages as a result of civil action, the employer may take the supplier or manufacturer to court to recover costs and seek compensation.

Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969
This requires employers obtain insurance cover of at least £2 million for any one accident. It also requires the employer to display the insurance certificate within the premises. Any company not suitably insured or that fails to display the certificate can be fined by the Health and Safety Executive.

The National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act 1965 (and amendments)
This covers all employees who suffer injuries, disease or death in the course of their employment and allows them to take civil action against employers within 3 years from the date of an associated accident or from the date of diagnosis of an attributable disease.

Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957
This Act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all visitors to their premises.

Factories Act 1961
This Act covers a range of general standards required of the workplace including the provision of adequate heating and lighting and the provision of adequate toilet and washroom facilities.

The Food Hygiene (General) Regulations 1970
These form part of the Food and Drugs Act 1955 and require certain standards to be met in terms of the design and construction of the food premises as well as the general maintenance systems, including cleaning.

The Fire Precautions Act 1971
This requires employers to provide an adequate means of escape in the event of a fire and provide an effective fire warning system. They must also provide adequate fire-fighting equipment and adopt efficient evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency.

All companies must obtain a Fire Certificate from the local fire authority. A Fire Safety Officer will inspect premises for compliance with the regulations, in particular, the design and provision of effective fire-retardant furniture and materials in addition to the facilities outlined above.

The Health and Safety at Work Act places certain duties and responsibilities on employers and employees. Any safety procedures adopted by individual companies must adhere to the following principles as laid out in the Act:
It is the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of all his/her employees and, in particular:

1. The provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are safe and without risk to health.
2. The arrangements for ensuring safety and freedom from risks to health in connection with the use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances.
3. The provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his/her employees.
4. To maintain any place of work under his/her control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health and to provide and maintain in similar condition, means of access to, and egress from, that place.
5. The provision and maintenance of a working environment for his/her employees that is safe and without risks to health and adequately provided with facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.

These five areas of responsibility are designed to allow employers to develop their own safety procedures in a way that they can be adapted to any given situation. Although the main duty of employers is to their employees, where those employers operate and control premises, they must ensure that they take measures to ensure the health and safety of all visitors to those premises. You may be surprised to learn that the act does not differentiate between legitimate visitors to the building and trespassers and that the same duty of care extends to both.

The term, “so far as is reasonably practicable” is included throughout the act and acknowledges the fact that employers can make a reasonable judgement on how each part of it can be applied to their own particular business and recognising that, in most instances, risks cannot be eliminated completely. However, all employers must be able to demonstrate that they are making reasonable attempts to eliminate risks to employees and others to an absolute minimum. They must also be able to demonstrate that they are working with employees to achieve this.

Duties imposed on employees by the Act include:

1. Taking reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do or not do.
2. Co-operating with their employer on health and safety.
3. Not interfering with or misusing anything provided for their health, safety or welfare.
Employee Responsibilities
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires all companies employing 5 or more people to prepare a written statement of their own health and safety policy. This policy must also be updated as and when there are any changes required i.e. additional legislation. The statement should include details of how the policy will be implemented throughout the workforce.

Most importantly, all employees should be provided with a copy of the policy.
The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) provide guidelines for all companies preparing a safety policy. These are:

1. The general policy statement should be a “declaration of intent”. More than one draft may be required so that different groups can interpret policy sensibly.
(For instance, a version can be provided to cleaners covering the main points of the policy, avoiding the need to provide them with an exhaustive, weighty document).

2. It should contain the names and addresses of the company executive responsible for fulfilling the policy and key individuals within the company with specific responsibilities in relation to health and safety.

3. It should make it clear that the ultimate level of responsibility for health and safety is that of the individual employee.

4. It should make provision for the formation of safety committees and include a list of people involved, including safety representatives.

5. It should clearly specify the need for training and supervision. For instance, it is vital to spell out the key role of the supervisor and to consider how best to equip him/her for their responsibilities.

6. It should identify the main hazards and lay down procedures to deal with accidents and dangerous occurrences. These need to be recorded as and when they occur.

Safety representatives are elected or appointed from within the workforce as a means of both developing efficient safety procedures and monitoring their effectiveness once they are in place.

Within larger organisations it is normal that safety representatives are selected by trade unions from within their membership. Where there is no formal recognition of trade unions, safety representatives are elected from within the workforce. The duties of the safety representative include:

• Investigation of all possible hazards and dangerous occurrences and examination of the causes of accidents in the workplace.
• Investigation of employee complaints relating to their personal health, safety and welfare.
• Making representations to the employer on matters related to health and safety.
• Inspection of the work place and all relevant documentation.

The number of representatives will depend on the size of the organisation and the range and diversity of the work processes undertaken throughout the workforce.
The Role of the Safety Representative
All organisations must establish a Safety Committee if requested to do so by at least two safety representatives. However, it is considered good practice to establish a Safety Committee as a matter of course.

The general roles of the Safety Committee include:
• Assisting in the development of a safe working environment.
• Studying accident statistics and making recommendations for corrective action.
• Scrutinising any safety inspection reports.
• Considering reports and observations made by safety representatives.
• Monitoring the effectiveness of the company safety policy and proposing any improvements that may be required.
• Maintaining links with authorities who are responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation.

It is important to keep the Safety Committee to a manageable size to ensure it is effective in dealing with all health and safety issues. The committee should also include representatives from all levels within the organisation and contain an even balance between management and employees.

Now we have dealt with some of the governing principles of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and given an indication of the main responsibilities of all involved, my next Blog aims to provide you with an indication of the practical steps needed to ensure that you develop your individual systems in full compliance with the legislation. In it, I will suggest what systems and procedures will need to be developed in supporting a comprehensive cleaning service.

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