We may have come to regard health and safety as a significant barrier to running our businesses, but the regulations are there both to protect the employer and the employee.

In our A-Z series, designed to provide you with a comprehensive overview of running a garage, we have reached the letter ‘H’ where we take a look at that old arch enemy ‘health and safety’.  Our series is packed with tips, advice and ideas to help your garage become even more successful.

Health & Safety

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In a nutshell, we all have a right to be protected at work and if you’re the boss, it’s your job to ensure the regulations are not only in place but are adhered to by your employees.

There have been 7,000 injuries and 33 deaths in the motor vehicle repair industry in the past five years, according to the regulatory body the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has created a website specifically aimed at the sector to help reduce the number of incidents. You can find the information here which includes industry specific issues such as used engine oil, cleaning substances when valeting and vehicle lifts.

Your general responsibilities are outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, although there are also specific responsibilities for certain industries. The HSE and local authority inspectors have wide ranging powers to prosecute if they believe health and safety standards are being flouted.

As well as employees, employers also have a duty to ensure the safety of customers and members of the public from anything arising out of their work. It means they have to implement an effective Health and Safety Management System to ensure adequate processes are in place for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of protective and preventive measures including recording of any injuries incurred at work. If your business employs more than five people, you must record these arrangements as part of your health and safety policy statement.

The safety policy statement should cover the arrangements in place to ensure adequate health and safety and you must make sure your employees are aware of its contents. It should also include your emergency measures and fire escape procedures. You will also have to appoint someone with responsibility to oversee the business’ compliance with their legal obligations as well as providing them with the time to reasonably complete their health and safety obligations alongside their other employment duties. Your ‘competent’ person also needs to have the appropriate HSE qualifications and experience or you can appoint a consultant.

As an employer, you will have to undertake a risk assessment and evaluate the level of risk in your business including those specific to the industry, for example, disposal of oil and other hazardous material from the workshop. Employees also need to receive any necessary instruction and training to enable them to undertake their job safely and without endangering others. If you do employ people, you have to display the HSE law poster or provide each work with a copy of the equivalent pocket card, these are available from the HSE website

Part of providing a safe working environment is to ensure all equipment meets the required safety standards and any measures are followed including the use of any personal protective equipment and regulations which governs the use of such equipment. You also need to be aware of general workplace requirements such as temperature, cleanliness, working space, ventilation, lighting and safe access.

Whilst it may all sound overwhelming, your employees also have responsibility for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions by behaving in a reasonable manner and adhering to the necessary regulations.

Handily, the HSE motor vehicle repair website incorporates a news section where it posts any new information, including regulation updates, relating to the sector.


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