What is a Health and Safety Policy?
A policy is a written statement, usually, comprises three elements:
• a statement section (often a single page) detailing how safety will be managed and that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to health and safety
• an organization section that details where responsibilities are allocated and how employees fit into the overall safety management system
• an arrangements section that contains details of how specific activities and functions are managed.
This arrangements section could include such matters as risk assessments, fire safety, first aid, accident reporting, electrical safety, work equipment, hazardous substances, manual handling and other workplace issues.
In larger organizations, the arrangements section may refer to other documents, such as safety manuals or safe systems of work.
Why have a Health and Safety Policy?
All organizations employing five or more people must have a written Health and Safety Policy statement. The policy should cover all aspects of the organization and be relevant to all employees.
A Health and Safety Policy demonstrates how seriously an organization takes its health and safety responsibilities. A good policy will show how the organization protects those who could be affected by its activities. The policy should be of an appropriate length and relevance to the activities and size of the organization.
Legal duties and obligations around Health and Safety Policies
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 , The Act says that you must prepare your own statement and bring it to the attention of all
employees. The policy should be reviewed and revised as often as necessary.
Legally, the policy only requires you to address the health and safety matters relating to employees, but in many organizations, it is a good idea to have a policy that considers the safety of others who might be affected by your activities, i.e. volunteers, contractors and the general public.
With or without a written policy, all employers have a duty of care to protect their employees and others from harm arising from work activities.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
These regulations place duties on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others arising from work activities. How this is carried out should be included in the policy.
To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.
Developing a Health and Safety Policy
Ideally, the statement should be written by people within your organization – they know the organization best and how it operates. You can seek assistance and advice externally, but essentially, it should be a policy that is appropriate to the needs of your business.
Involve your staff in putting the policy together. As well as benefiting from their day-to-day experience of the job, doing so will give you a better chance of getting their commitment to carry out the aims of the policy.
Setting out a policy
You can decide on how the policy should be set out. It should be set out in such a way that it makes it clear to everyone what is expected of them to comply with the requirements of the policy.
In a small organization, it’s likely that a simple statement will be suitable. It’s also likely that the organization section of the policy will contain only one or two names, as most of the responsibilities will be allocated to those people.
Aims of a policy
There are no hard and fast rules about the length of the policy. The important thing to remember is to link the aims of the policy to the level of risk. Risk Assessment will determine how explicit you need to be in your arrangements section.
Reach of a policy
In a larger organization with multiple sites or activities, it is often the case that there is an overarching or corporate policy that covers the general issues and also more detailed policies relating to the individual sites or activities.
This can be a useful approach, particularly where an organization has a number of sites where different activities are carried out. It can allow you to tailor the organization section of the policy to the individual managers of each site.
There are various ways to bring the policy to the attention of employees. If it is short enough, you may decide to give a copy to each employee.
If you are a larger organisation or your policy is fairly lengthy, you could post copies on notice boards or in appropriate places. Whatever you choose to do, you must make sure that you bring the policy to the attention of all employees.
Monitoring and review
Monitoring that the policy is still effective is vital. There are many ways that this can be done, including carrying out spot checks or safety inspections using prepared checklists. More formally, effective monitoring can be achieved through audits and by reviewing management reports and accident investigations.