Although Men’s Sheds are not places of work and are not bound by legislation, such as the UK Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Irish Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (2005), your Shed still has a duty of care to look after the health and wellbeing of its members. There may also be instances where Sheds do choose to employ people, for example, as supervisors.
Once your shed is fully operational and you have all of your health and safety protection in place (e.g. fire extinguishers and alarms, insurance cover, PAT tested machinery), an issue can be the upkeep of health and safety standards.
A common challenge for Men’s Sheds is that members can be predominantly ageing, retired, or have existing health issues. This means that members may want to escape the rules and regulations of working life, and/or may have health issues that impact on their ability to use machinery (e.g. mobility and agility).
Here are some useful tips for managing the ongoing health safety of your shed:
- Make sure that all members are aware of the consequences to the Shed of not adhering to basic health and safety (e.g. inspections or closure).
- Safety is everyone’s responsibility as the Shed belongs to everyone. Make sure that all members have a voice and ownership over decisions about health safety and how this is implemented. Consult with your members through regular meetings where you discuss issues and ways to overcome them.
- Try and make it fun and engaging- create funny safety posters for your walls that are light hearted and relatable.
- Create a rota of willing participants who can do regular health and safety checks (e.g. checking fire alarms and machinery).
- Communicate regularly with members with health issues that may impact on their ability to be safe in the Shed to see how they are getting on. This might also involve talking to their family members. Encourage other members to look out for each other. Keep a record of any concerns. More information can be found on the following pages.
- Make sure that you have comprehensive insurance that covers your Shed for every eventuality. Speak to an insurer who specialises in cover for community voluntary groups.
- Invite interesting speakers into your Shed to talk about health and safety matters (e.g. the fire service, St John’s Ambulance). This can be a great way to raise awareness amongst your members, whilst still keeping it fun and engaging.
There can be grant funding available to cover professional training on aspects of health and safety, such as how to use machinery or first aid. There may also be courses delivered for free or for a small fee in your local community, so it’s worth contacting other community groups, local authorities or your local voluntary support agency for advice. It might also be useful to visit other Sheds to ask for their advice. Online advice can also be found on the national health and safety webpages listed in the resources section at the back of the toolkit.