HSE launches grant scheme

Small firms are being encouraged to improve their health and safety through
the HSE’s innovative grant scheme

The Health and Safety Executive has launched the Small Firms Assistance
Scheme which aims to improve health and safety. It will run until May next year
in West Yorkshire, Essex and Devon and Cornwall.

Under the scheme, small firms will be able to claim 50 per cent of their
costs for health and safety training or mentoring – up to a maximum of £1,000.
The remainder of the cost will be met by the firm itself.

By law all employers are required to have a health and safety policy, conduct
risk assessments, take measures to control risks and have access to competent
health and safety advice. Assessments should be documented where there are more
than five employees.

But research commissioned by the HSE shows that while small firms struggle
with applying health and safety law effectively, they are reluctant to approach
the HSE directly for advice.

The scheme, which will be operated for the HSE by the Small Business Service
and Business Links, is designed to plug that gap.

It is open to anyone in the pilot areas starting up a business, those with
fewer than 10 employees and those with an annual turnover of less that £4.5m.

Small firms also traditionally overlook occupational health provision, an
issue that the Government has begun to tackle through the launch last year of
NHS Plus.

Under NHS Plus, NHS occupational health departments are encouraged to
outsource their services to the wider community, in particular to small and
medium-sized enterprises, with SMEs accessing information and providers through
a central website.

Judith Donovan, health and safety commissioner for small firms, said:
"This scheme is designed to take the mystery out of health and safety by
improving small firms’ awareness and understanding of the issues."


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