25th August, 2021
For all business types, health and safety training will be a legal requirement in one form or another. Your team might need external training courses, qualifications and certificates. They may need in-house inductions, on the job training and toolbox talks. Often, a mixture of both is required.
Imagine you have a new member of your team. It's their first day on the job, and they won't necessarily know the exact requirements. Sure, they have a broad idea. But the specific details, the ins and outs, the rules, the layout, that's all-new. Your workplace, equipment, and people will be unfamiliar.
Now think about an existing member of your team. They know all the things that the new member doesn't know. But they still face changes with the job they do for you. Maybe they work on different sites or locations. Perhaps they use new equipment from time to time. Or they just got promoted and have new responsibilities.
When someone starts a new job or changes happen in an existing role, new hazards and risks can get introduced. For both the scenarios above, some form of training would help. Because ultimately, health and safety training is about letting workers know what to do and how to do it safely.
But what does the law say about health and safety training? Is it nice to have or legally required? And is it just for big businesses or small ones too?
- 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 employees;
Employers have legal health and safety responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to provide information, instruction and training to ensure the health and safety of employees.
The Health and Safety at Work Act applies to businesses of all sizes. So this answers our question - yes, health and safety training is a legal requirement for all employers.
It's a bit vague, "as is necessary", isn't it? How are you supposed to know what training to provide? And who decides?
Well, the Health and Safety at Work Act applies to all businesses, and so what's necessary for a construction company won't apply to an office or a shop, for example. Sometimes, you will need to decide what health and safety training is necessary. And to what level.
Even within one sector, the training requirements can differ drastically. For example, a demolition contractor wouldn't need the same training as a scaffolder or a painter.
And even in the same job type, training needs might vary. For example, two office workers might require different training if one is a first aider and a fire marshal.
So as you can see from these few examples, training needs can be incredibly varied. Not only between different industries but also between different job roles. Your responsibility, as an employer, is to look at your workforce and the jobs assigned to them. Then decide what is necessary for them to do their work safely.
In some cases, the law will step in and tell you what is required, more or less. So if you are dealing with a particular type of work, check the regulations that apply, and see what they say about training.
Regulation specific training requirements happen when dealing with high-risk hazards, for example, asbestos training requirements. And also in specific industries, for example, with construction induction requirements. It also applies in life and death situations like first aid training.
There are many different kinds of training courses available, informal, formal, in-house and external. Not every training course needs to be accredited. And from a legal point of view, the regulations are unlikely to specify a particular accreditation body.
The exception to this used to be with first aid training. The HSE used to approve first aid training courses but dropped the requirement in 2013.
From 1 October 2013 HSE no longer approves training and qualifications for the purposes of first aid at work.
However, you may still choose to use accredited training, to ensure that more formal training courses meet a certain standard and fulfil particular requirements. Or clients might specify that a specific accreditation is required to work on their projects.
For example, first aid training is usually a classroom-based course to meet the criteria to become a qualified first aider. Using a well known provided like St John Ambulance, or an accredited local provider gives assurances that a standardised syllabus is followed.
And some health and safety courses or assessments are globally or nationally recognised, like NEBOSH, IPAF, PASMA, PAL, IOSH, CSCS etc. So you know you are training your team to specific standards, which is good for safety, and also helps you meet selection criteria for contracts.
Other training might need to be more bespoke to your business. For example, inductions or on the job training. Or you might want to provide regular toolbox talks and pick topics based on the work being done that day or address a health and safety issue.
Going back to first aid, you might choose to do annual refreshers in between the formal accredited qualifications that happen every three years.
HSE strongly recommends that first-aiders undertake annual refresher training, over half a day, during any three-year certification period. Although not mandatory, this will help qualified first-aiders maintain their basic skills and keep up to date with any changes to first-aid procedures.
We offer these kinds of short online awareness and refresher training courses here on HASpod, to help keep your team health and safety focused.
This type of informal or short bite-sized training is probably not going to be accredited. But it is just as important to maintain health and safety standards in between larger, more formal training courses where you would be more likely to find accredited providers.
You can and should carry out some health and safety training yourself. After all, you know your business better than anyone else. So for things like inductions and on the job training, it makes sense to either provide the training yourself or at least have an input on the information included.
Of course, for more formal training requirements, you might not have the skills, resources, qualifications or time to carry it out in-house. And you might need to get a certificate from an external provider. For example, first aid at work qualifications, licensed asbestos work, abrasive wheel training, tower scaffold training etc.
Again, it all comes down to what is necessary for the safety of your team. And within most workplaces, often a mixture of training is required. Taking into consideration the hazards and risks, and the roles team members have in the business.
For example, take fire safety. You might provide in-house or non-accredited fire safety training to everyone, for basic awareness. And you might send some members of the team off to a full training course to become fire marshals who can carry fire safety responsibilities.
Our short online health and safety awareness courses can be completed in the browser, and are great for introductions and refreshers. You can also use our Talks Plan for health and safety talks that take just 5 minutes to complete!
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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