Writing an effective workplace health and safety policy keeps your employees safe and your business on the right side of the law
Section 2(3) of the health and safety at work etc act 1974, requires all organisations to have a written health and safety policy. If you are an organisation with less than 5 employees, you don’t need to write anything down.
To show the importance of having a written health and safety policy within your organisation and to provide clarity on what is required we are going to cover the key points through a series of questions.
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What is a health and safety policy?
A health and safety policy is a document setting out your organisations approach and commitment towards managing health and safety. The policy should include assigning responsibilities of various management roles (including employees) and providing measures to ensure that these responsibilities have been adequately discharged. Finally, the policy should detail how health and safety will be managed. This policy should therefore be arranged to cover 3 key sections:
- Statement of Intent – also called the health and safety policy statement, where it outlines the organisation’s commitment to health and safety.
- Organisation for Health & Safety – This looks at the key responsibilities throughout the organisation for health and safety. This will also include employees responsibilities.
- Arrangements for Managing Health & Safety – This sets out key health and safety risks and the arrangements in place to manage these risks.
What are the written health and safety policy statement requirements?
Before you start to think about writing your health and safety policy statement you need to ensure that it is relevant to your organisation. Whatever is written in this first section of your policy needs to reflect the size and complexity of your organisation. Below are some areas that should be included as part of your health and safety policy statement requirements. It’s not a full list but we would expect to see these areas as part of an organisations commitment to health and safety:
- Ensure that hazards in the workplace are identified and appropriate control measures instigated through the process of risk assessments;
- Ensure that all accident, incidents and near misses are investigated, and measures instigated to ensure that they don’t reoccur;
- Consult with employees on health and safety issues affecting their wellbeing, giving them necessary information, instruction and training;
- Provide a safe working environment, including safe access/egress, including adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare at work;
- Ensure time, money and resources are allocated to ensure that the obligations of this policy are met;
- Provide information, instruction and training and supervision to enable staff, contractors and visitors to carry out their work safely without harm to themselves and others;
- Ensure that the policy statement is reviewed at least annually and more frequently where significant changes has occurred in the organisation;
- Ensure that the policy statement is signed off by the most senior member of the management team.
How often should the health & safety policy be reviewed?
It’s good practice to include in your health and safety policy statement that the policy will be reviewed at least annually. The policy statement should be dated and signed off by the most senior person on your management team. If you’re a small business and you’re the boss, then that will be you. The policy statement review does not mean that it needs to be updated, but it will allow time to be set aside to consider any changes that has occurred in the organisation and if these changes need to be reflected in the policy statement. Any review should include the date of the last review.
What information should be included in the organisation for health & safety?
This section is all about who does what. It is important that the management team hierarchy is represented in the organisation of health and safety. If you have an organisation chart then it could be included and then the roles and responsibilities for specific aspects of health and safety listed. Depending on your organisation a typical structure would include:
- Managing Director
- Facilities Manager/Office Manager/Operations Manager
- External Competent Person(s)
- First Aiders
- Fire Marshals
If you have a health and safety committee within the organisation they should also be included in this section. You need to ensure that all roles that have specific responsibilities for health and safety are represented.
What information should be included in the arrangements section of the health and safety policy?
Opinion varies about the amount of information that should be included in this section. There are two options that we provide to our clients. The options are based on the size and complexity of your operations.
- Option 1 – This option includes listing the what and how in relation to managing workplace risks in this section. This option works best for organisation whose operations are not complex, fairly flat management structure and risks profile is low.
- Option 2 – This option can also work for organisations in option 1, but it includes listing what needs to be done in relation to managing workplace risks, but the majority of how these risk are managed within the organisation is supported by additional documentation (checklists, forms, safe systems of work procedures, permit to work, etc) which are referenced within this section of the policy. This option works very well because it keeps the policy document concise and where additional information is required it is referenced.
Whichever option is chosen the key is to ensure that sufficient arrangements for managing health and safety risks are in place that are proportionate to the size and complexity of your organisation.
How can we help with your health and safety policy?
Writing your health and safety policy requires an understanding of your business activities, how they impact on workers’ health and safety, and the arrangements in place to manage these impacts.
If your business is growing, or if you’ve had a significant change to usual work processes, you’ll need to get your health and safety policy updated.
We have helped many business owners with either writing or updating their health and safety policy by following the simple three-part process highlighted above.
If you are unsure of the health and safety risks within your organisation our health and safety review will document all the key workplace health and safety hazards and what is required to control risks at work.