Now more than ever, employers must protect the health and safety of all their staff. Agencies who supply temporary workers must also ensure that they know how hirers will reduce the risks that their workers might face when working for those hirers.
As lockdown measures are eased and businesses and organisations are returning to work, there are many questions about how to manage health and safety issues relating to coronavirus.
Under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 employers must carry out an assessment of the health and safety risks associated with their business to identify any measures necessary to control those risks, remembering that under health and safety legislation the term ‘employer’ includes clients and employment businesses.
Businesses to include Employment Businesses should therefore ensure that the client carries out a risk assessment, which is suitable and sufficient for the particular business and the client’s various sites.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced useful guidance on how to conduct risk assessments. They have set out five steps to risk assessment:
- identify the hazards;
- decide who might be harmed and how;
- evaluate the risks and decide on precaution;
- record the findings and implement them; and
- review the assessment and update if necessary.
Detailed guidance on the five steps is available on the HSE website.
Importantly, the risk assessment should consider any temporary workers who may work on site, particularly as s/he will be unfamiliar with the plant, machinery and layout of the client’s site(s).
An employee and temporary worker’s responsibility towards their own risk assessment
Employees and temporary workers must also work in a safe manner and not put themselves or any other person at risk of harm. Temporary workers must also understand that they have a responsibility to carry out their own risk assessment of their activities to identify any significant hazards under their control likely to affect themselves or others. However neither the employment business nor the client should consider this as absolving them from their respective obligations towards a temporary worker’s health and safety while they are on assignment.
Employment businesses should ensure their terms of engagement with temporary workers contains a term whereby temporary workers should take all reasonable steps to safeguard their own health and safety.
Does an Employment Agency or Business have to obtain a risk assessment from the client?
It is doubtful that an agency or employment business is always required to obtain copies of a client’s risk assessments to fulfil their obligations. However employment businesses and agencies must ask what the risks to health and safety are. When considering what health and safety information to ask for, recruiters should bear in mind both the sector and the specific position they are recruiting into and tailor their questions accordingly (the HSE can provide guidance in this regard).
Such questions may include whether the position involves close contact with others, whether social distancing is possible, heavy lifting, working at a height, toxic substances which may be on site, the hours spent in front of a visual display unit, whether the client provides personal protective equipment and what training or induction is required.
Where workers are supplied into regulated or licensed sectors, such as the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and the Care Quality Commission, the regulatory or licensing body may have specific health and safety requirements. For example, in agriculture, shell fishing or the food processing or packaging industries, the GLA will insist that the employment business has a copy of the client’s risk assessment as part of the Licensing Standards to be met before a GLA licence is granted.
It is considered best practice for an employment business to periodically monitor a client’s health and safety policies, risk assessments and performance i.e. by analysing covid numbers, accident books and ill health reports.
HSE provide detailed guidance on all aspects of health and safety. They can provide sample risk assessments as well as guidance on how to fill them out.
A written health and safety policy
As a matter of health and safety law, those who employ at least five people must prepare a written statement of their general policy on health and safety at work and such policy must be brought to the attention of their employees. For organisations with less than five people, it is not a legal requirement to have a written health and safety policy but it is best practice to do so.
If you require support in drafting a Health & Safety Policy for your business, contact our team of HR Consultants today on 01223 855441.
Employment businesses supplying temporary workers should ask their clients for a copy of any relevant risk assessments and their health and safety policy. They should also confirm that the client will give the temporary worker a health and safety induction on the first day of their assignment.
Read more in this series of blogs “Back to work”
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