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."