The law requires employers to develop safe systems of work (a defined method of carrying out each job in a safe way).
The following documents can form part of the safe system of work.
- Health and safety policy.
- Risk assessments.
- Method statements.
- Permit to work.
- Construction phase plan.
- Survey results.
- Health surveillance.
- Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) assessments.
Health and safety policy
Your employer’s health and safety policy will give you the following information.
- Explain how health and safety is managed in your company.
- Identify what the arrangements are (what should be done and how it should be done).
- Show who is responsible for doing what (including what you and your fellow workers must do).
Risk assessments explain the following.
- The hazards of the work site or task (for example, an open excavation).
- The significant risks (for example, people falling in).
- The control measures needed to minimise the risk to an acceptable level. (For example, erect a double handrail around all sides of an excavation, with a safe way of getting in and out for workers. Make sure excavations are inspected and that they have suitable barriers, warning signs and are adequately lit at night.)
Your employer should assess the risks to both you and others arising from the work being done.
A hazard is anything that could cause harm to you or another person (such as chemicals, working from a ladder, or electricity).
The risk is the chance (likelihood) that you, or someone else, could be harmed by the hazard and how serious any harm could be.;
Method statements explain how the job is to be done safely. They will also identify the following.
- The sequence, method and controls to be followed.
- The materials and equipment to be used.
- The number of people and the skills, knowledge, training, experience and supervision needed.
Permit to work
A permit to work system is used for controlling high-risk activities, or where there are activities that need extra controls. It is a formal, dated and time-limited certificate signed by a properly authorised and competent person. Permits have strict controls and limitations that must be followed. You must never start any job for which a permit is needed before the permit’s start time and before the controls are in place.
The types of activity that need a permit to work system include the following.
- Working on live electrical cables.
- Confined space entry.
- Hot works or welding.
- Breaking the ground (permits to dig).
Construction phase plan
A construction phase plan is needed for every construction project. It must be regularly reviewed and may be added to or changed as the project goes ahead. It will give you the following information.
The identity and location of the main dangers on site and how they will be controlled.
- How the work has been planned with safety in mind.
- How the site will be organised.
- How people will work safely together.
- The arrangements for providing welfare facilities.
There are a number of surveys (for example, an asbestos, noise or underground services survey) that may be required. These survey results will form part of the safe system of work, as they will show where certain hazards may be.
Health surveillance allows for the signs of ill health to be identified early. It may be needed if you are exposed to a hazardous agent or if your work may have an adverse effect on your body (for example, hearing damage if you are working in a noisy area). It lets your employer check that their control measures are working and that you are not exposed to any ill health that could be prevented.
COSHH assessments are an assessment of health risks created by work involving substances hazardous to health. COSHH assessments concentrate on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in your workplace. Remember that health hazards are not limited to substances labelled as hazardous. Some harmful substances can be produced by the method of work you use (for example, wood dust from sanding, or silica dust from tile or block cutting).
Employers must carry out a COSHH assessment for the following reasons.
- To identify the hazardous substances used in, or created by, a work process to which you and others will be exposed.
- To establish the degree of risk to your health resulting from exposure.
- To devise safe systems of work that either eliminate exposure or control it to an acceptable level.
Are you familiar with your safe system of work? Do you know what the sequence of work is? Are you aware of the hazards? Do you have the right equipment and training?Do you fully understand the identified control measures? Or are you doing the job the way you have always done it, the way you think it should be done or just having to make do with what you have got?
If you are working differently from the written and approved safe system of work then speak to your supervisor or employer. Your way may be better, quicker or more efficient but it may have other risks that you don’t know or haven’t thought about. The system of work will need to be assessed and, if necessary, extra controls put in place.
The law needs you to have the necessary training, knowledge, experience and skills so you can carry out the tasks given to you safely. You should never be put in a position where you have to carry out a job for which you do not have the necessary competence, equipment and safe method of working. If you think you are, then you may be putting yourself or others at risk – you need to speak to your supervisor or the site manager.