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Health and Safety - Not Just Monkey Business

An article to help therapists understand their legal Health and Safety duties
by Sharon Coleman MLPI .

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It’s tough being an organ grinder these days, and it’s not a barrel of laughs for his monkey either. According to an article in The Times (09/08/2008), an organ grinder has been banned from the streets of Ripley until he and his monkey undertake a risk assessment. The organ grinder insisted that the risk of his monkey harming the public was limited; it was battery operated…

Many of the stories we hear, such as the need for trapeze artists to wear hard hats, conker fights being banned, and Mr Punch presenting an unacceptable risk (to Judy, one presumes) are fabricated, so much so that the Health and Safety Executive dedicates several web pages to dispelling the myths.

With so many mixed messages, it is difficult to judge exactly what is required. If a mechanical monkey is considered a hazard, the mind boggles at how much assumed damage a real-live therapist could do!

Like much of life, health and safety is all about balance. Do you need to panic and fit bars to the sides of your treatment couch? No. Do you need to be aware of your legal responsibilities? Yes, without a doubt.

Ensuring you comply with the Health and Safety regulations is not just about protecting yourself from litigation should an accident occur. It is an ongoing commitment. Basically, the Health and Safety legislation gives a duty to the employer to protect everyone in the workplace, and all members of staff have a responsibility to look after themselves and others. Health and Safety therefore affects everyone and each individual has a part to play. Every worker – employer, employee and the self-employed – has a duty of care.

The main principle of Health and Safety is simple. The workplace and working procedures must be assessed for risk and any identified risks removed or reduced to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, the protection of everyone. Risk assessment has five steps:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  4. Record findings and implement them
  5. Review the assessment and update if necessary

Some risks are universal. For example all premises have the potential for harbouring tripping hazards, such as a frayed carpet or a trailing cable. Others are more industry-specific, and one of the major risks in complementary healthcare/beauty therapy is cross-infection. Procedures must be implemented to reduce this risk as far as possible. Our industry also uses chemicals (e.g. essential oils and cosmetic products), hot wax and some therapies are invasive, perforating the skin causing blood-spotting. All hazards must be identified, assessed, and then removed or reduced.

Although risk assessment seems enough to be getting on with, the Law has additional demands. For example, adequate training must be given, welfare facilities provided, the provision where necessary of protective clothing, the safe maintenance of all equipment and the implementation of emergency procedures in case of fire, to name just a few. It all looks a bit bewildering to begin with, but the application of knowledge, practical guidelines and commonsense soon reveals that, as long as you apply a sensible, balanced “safety first” mentality, you’ll be heading in the right direction.

Although Health and Safety legislation is often mocked, its importance cannot be overstated. You must understand what you have to do and keep up to date with its ever-changing demands. It is Law and you are required to comply. Your insurance company will have requirements too and, should an accident occur, you will need to demonstrate how you attempted to maintain a safe working environment and protect all who enter it. It can involve a lot of work but the flip-side to this is that by the end of the process you will have a safer, stronger, more professional business. Reviewing procedures can reveal all sorts of ways to improve, not only to make your practice safer but to save time and increase profitability. Your clients will see the difference too. After all, they are the focus of your business. They come to you to receive care and that extends beyond the therapy they receive.

Health and Safety, it’s not just monkey business - make it your business.

Click here for our full range of Health and Safety Courses and Resources, from £12.99.


About the Author

Sharon Coleman MLPI . started designing and implementing Computer Based Training (CBT) in 1984. She was awarded Full Membership status of the prestigious Institute of IT Training in May 2000, in recognition of training achievements and experience over the previous 16 years. Having written training for a variety of market sectors including Banking and Finance, Insurance, Retail, Telecommunications, Paper and Print, Transport and Utilities, she is presently a Director of Essential Training Solutions Ltd, providing a range of quality online training courses, accredited by the VTCT and approved by the FHT, in Health & Safety and Anatomy & Physiology.

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