If a business or organisation has over five employees, it must draft a written policy with a clear health and safety policy statement. The aim of the document is to inform all concerned parties about the health and safety aims and objectives of the business or organisation in question.
It also encourages employees to use policies and procedures or other agreed ways of working that relate to health and safety. When put into practice, the health and safety procedures outlined in the policy will not only prevent accidents but also improve efficiency and quality.
However, to be effective, a health and safety policy statement must be more than simply a piece of paper in a file. A company health and safety policy must be a living, breathing document that is dynamic and can be constantly adapted to changes in the workplace and/or changes in legislation.
So, regardless of your sector, whether you have a company health and safety policy or a health and safety policy in schools, you must ensure your policy is working. In this article, we will look at several key areas to consider when doing so.
Performance Benchmarking for Health and Safety Procedures
Performance benchmarking is the process of identifying and sharing best practices for health and safety matters in the workplace.
Typical benchmarks can include:
- Causes of accidents by percentage
- Accident rates per employee hours worked
- Causes of work-related ill health by percentage
Trade associations and other professional organisations are often a good starting point for this type of benchmarking. They bring similar organisations together and help to facilitate benchmarking and the sharing of best practices. In addition, the Health and Safety Executive also provides guidance and information that can be helpful in performance benchmarking.
The Importance of Monitoring Your Health and Safety Policy Statement
Once you have written and distributed your health and safety policy statement, it is then important to review how well it is performing and if it is still appropriate to the needs of the organisation.
There are many factors that justify regular review, including changes to:
- The Workforce, as staff leave and are hired
- The organisational changes, such as restructuring or acquiring new companies
- Work practices, such as to accommodate new operational requirements
- Legislation, such as any new guidance or policy changes
By monitoring and reviewing the efficacy of your health and safety policy statement you can reduce the risk of being in breach of health and safety law. If an organisation is prosecuted or given an improvement notice, this is a clear sign that its policy is either flawed or is not being properly implemented.
The Benefits of Regular Health and Safety Policy Reviews
Regular reviews of a health and safety policy statement ensure that effective health and safety procedures are being implemented in the workplace, but there are also other benefits for an organisation or business.
These benefits include enhanced communication within an organisation. Workforce consultation and involvement are central to effective health and safety management. Reviewing the health and safety policy encourages the professional development of employees and promotes the inclusivity of managers and other high-ranking officials in all aspects of health and safety.
Reviewing the health and safety policy statement regularly improves standards of productivity and quality. Reviews result in enhanced standards of supervision across the organisation, particularly in regard to more vulnerable groups such as new employees or young employees.
There are also significant cost savings for employers as work-related employee ill health and accidents are a major source of lost revenue. Additionally, maintaining a relevant and effective health and safety policy statement can improve an organisation’s public image.
How to Review Your Health and Safety Policy Statement
Risk assessments should be done regularly to proactively identify and resolve any health and safety issues. Often, risk assessments may show that there are problems that need to be addressed by revising existing health and safety arrangements.
As with any good management system, your health and safety policy statement should be reviewed when a reasonable period of time has passed to ensure that it is still relevant and valid.
Avoid Creating an Ineffective Company Health and Safety Policy
Unfortunately, health and safety policies are not always effective. Some of the pitfalls that employers can fall into when implementing a health and safety policy include:
- Insufficient resources – a lack of time or funds can make implementing a company health and safety policy difficult
- Lack of communication – often, employees don’t know what is in a health and safety policy statement due to poor communication
- Lack of commitment – in some cases, senior management does not commit to implementing the policy adequately, for example, when placing profits above health and safety
- Low involvement – Senior management may be committed and provide resources, but they must also be involved to provide leadership
- Disregard for employee health and safety concerns – If employees raise problems but are then ignored, the implementation process will soon breakdown
- Lack of ownership – A tendency in the policy to shift all responsibility onto the employee and away from management
- Insufficient maintenance of equipment – Poor maintenance systems which keep things in good working order
- Inadequate health and safety procedures – Poor implementation of safe systems of work and other arrangements
- Inadequate performance monitoring – If health and safety performance is not measured, no one will know what issues need to be addressed or how systems need to be improved
The Benefits of Using a HSE Policy Example Checklist
An HSE checklist can help illuminate and rectify issues and shortfalls in your health and safety policy statement. While the below list is not exhaustive, in general, you should consider the following points when reviewing a health and safety policy statement:
- Is there a clear statement of commitment to health and safety?
- Are there clear roles and responsibilities with named individuals at all levels?
- Does the health and safety policy statement say how it will be implemented, reviewed and on what timescale?
- Does the health and safety policy statement have the appropriate signature and is it dated?
- Have all the ideas, concerns, and issues of managers, supervisors, committee members, and employees been addressed?
- Has the policy been effectively communicated to all concerned?
- Does it have the cooperation and involvement of the workforce as a central theme?
- Are there named individuals with responsibilities for the following essential systems:
- Fire safety arrangements
- First aid
- Safety inspections
- Risk assessments
- Health monitoring
- Health and safety training
- Mandatory systems such as inspection of equipment
- Accident reporting and investigation
- Are there suitable arrangements for dealing with all foreseeable hazards?
- Does the health and safety policy statement explain how risk assessments will be carried out?
- Does the health and safety policy statement explain how plant and equipment will be used?
- Are there arrangements for the maintenance and upkeep of plant and equipment?
- Are emergency procedures detailed?
- Are there arrangements for communicating health and safety information within the organisation?
- Is health and safety training covered?
- Does the health and safety policy statement explain how health and safety matters are to be supervised?
More Information on Writing a Health and Safety Policy Statement
To ensure it is effective, a health and safety policy must be clearly communicated and regularly reviewed so that it can be updated to encompass any changes in the workplace.
If properly put into practice, a health and safety policy can prevent accidents and improve efficiency and quality. The online courses available from Human Focus provide accredited training for management on how to create a health and safety policy. Senior-level employees can undertake the IOSH Managing Safely course to enhance their health and safety knowledge. These courses are available online and are certified by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).