What should a basic health and safety course contain?

What should a basic health and safety course contain?

Posted on Dec 04, 2015

What should a basic health and safety course contain?



 health & safety trainingUnfortunately, there is no short answer to this question, but we’ve tried to make it as painless as possible.

Broadly speaking, it will depend on:

  • The type of activities you’re carrying out within your organisation
  • The outcome of your organisational risk assessment
  • What you’ve previously trained people in (and when this took place)
  • Who your employees are
  • What your employees think

Before jumping into this, let’s just look at a bit of background.


What is the purpose of a basic health and safety course?

There’s no great secret to why we do health and safety training; here are some of the basic reasons we do it:

  1. We want people to know how to work safely and without injuring themselves;
  2. We want to promote a positive health and safety culture i.e. working safely becomes second nature to everyone; and
  3. We want to comply with our legal duty to look after the safety and wellbeing of our employees.


Is there a specific format the course should take?


The training could take the form of any combination of the following:

  • Giving information or instruction
  • Coaching or on-the-job training
  • Classroom training
  • Distance learning
  • e-learning

No matter which form you choose for the health and safety training, it should take place during working hours and it must not be paid for by employees.

It also needs to be effective in helping employees become competent in health and safety; and reducing the emotional and financial consequences that accidents and ill health cause within the workplace.


What does the law require me to do?

This really gets to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? In other words, we’re looking at ‘what do I have to do?’ because, after all, that’s a pretty solid starting place. There are 4 main pieces of legislation that you need to be aware of.


Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974


This places the requirement on you (the employer) to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of your employees.


Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999


As an extension of this, this piece of legislation requires you to identify the situations in which health and safety training is especially important, eg, when people are new to the job, when there are increased risks or perhaps when their knowledge has become slightly rusty.


Health and Safety (Training for Employment) Regulations 1990 


Ever worked with young people on work experience? The purpose of these regulations is to protect them within health and safety law too.


The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996


This places the obligation on you to consult your employees about health and safety issues.


The contents of a basic health and safety course depends

A good basis for the course (for anyone in the business) to create awareness might want to cover how you manage health and safety, the responsibilities for the various health & safety activities, how to identify hazards and evaluate risks (along with the associated measures for controlling these risks and hazards) and, finally, the cost to the business if things go wrong.


The type of activities you’re carrying out within your organisation


Quite sensibly there can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to Health and Safety given that the range of activities carried by different people and different organisations can vary so widely. For example, an office is typically considered a low risk environment and construction/manufacturing could be higher risk. Even if you’re in a relatively low risk environment, this doesn’t mean no risk: stress accounted for 43% of all working days lost to ill health in 2014/15 and musculoskeletal disorders (most commonly associated with injuries such as bad backs) accounted for 40%.


The outcome of your organisational risk assessment


This will help prioritise which training to start with first as it’ll highlight the highest risk activities or the most imminent need.


What you’ve previously trained people in (and when this took place)


The advantage of looking at this is that you can identify training gaps either to see what areas people haven’t yet been trained in, areas where knowledge hasn’t been refreshed recently or where things have been changed but no re-training has taken place. Again, this helps you prioritise which training needs to be carried out so you’re not placed with the burden of trying to do all the training at once.


Who your employees are


Everyone within the workplace will need training: the boss, managers, supervisors, employees, self-employed consultants. It’ll just depend on the level of training they need. It makes sense that those responsible for managing health and safety need reasonable training in how to go about doing that in addition to working safely.

Certain groups of employees are considered to have particular training needs:

  • New starters – quite understandably, when you’re new, you need an induction to understand fire or first aid arrangements etc
  • People changing jobs/taking on extra responsibilities
  • Young employees – can be particularly vulnerable to accidents
  • Nominated health and safety representatives

Don’t forget to include homeworkers in this as you’re responsible for their health and safety too.


What your employees think


Not only are you obligated to consult with employees but it actually makes a lot of sense to ask people what they feel would be most helpful and in what way. After all, you’re attempting to keep them safe: giving them some ownership of what that safeguarding might look at helps ensure greater success in doing it.


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