All employers must have a clear policy for managing health and safety. A company health and safety policy should outline the health and safety policies and procedures of the work setting. It should detail the health and safety aims and objectives of your organisation.
Many employers are unsure if they require a written health and safety policy and what needs to be included in such a policy. In this article, we will detail what is a health and safety policy and show you how to formulate one for your organisation.
Why You Need a Company Health and Safety Policy
By law, all UK employers with five or more employees must have a written health and safety policy. If a company has fewer than five employees, they are also required to have a policy, but they don’t need to write it down or distribute it. The number of employees is calculated based on all workers, be they seasonal, part or full-time.
The need for a health and safety policy stems from the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This Act is all-encompassing, it applies to everyone from management to front-line staff, contractors and suppliers.
The philosophy behind the Health and Safety at Work Act is that is it better to prevent accidents rather than to wait for them to happen and then deal with employers with fines and investigations.
Creating a health and safety policy is a fundamental first step in this preventative approach. It begins an ongoing process of establishing a management system for controlling risks.
If you receive a visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or a local authority inspector, it is quite likely that your health and safety policy will be one of the documents they ask to see. If you do not have one, you could be prosecuted for this alone.
What Must Be Included in a Health and Safety Policy
A company health and safety policy must have the following three elements:
- Part I: Statement of Intent
- Part II: Responsible Parties (also called the Organisation section)
- Part III: Health and Safety Measures (also called the Arrangements section)
The Statement of Intent
The statement of intent outlines the goals and improvements that an employer will endeavour to achieve through their health and safety practices.
The statement of intent should be made up of two components, the employer’s goals (which are not quantifiable) and the company’s objectives (which are quantifiable). The aims may remain static, while the objectives are likely to change.
When writing a statement of intent, every effort should be made to keep the language simple and concise, and important points should be broken down into short, distinct units. The statement of intent does not need to be long. Clarity is far more important than length.
The policy statement of intent should be signed and dated by the head of the organisation. Anytime there is a change to any section of the statement, it needs to be signed and dated again. The signature clearly indicates the person with whom authority lies, and the date indicates the relevance of the document.
Whilst a policy will be unique to the organisation, statements of intent should include the aims for the following essentials:
- Welfare and environmental concerns
- Details of those with specific responsibilities for health and safety
- What is being done to meet the essential elements of the Health and Safety at Work Act
There should be a clear statement of commitment from the company to meeting its legal health and safety obligations.
A health and safety policy must include a clear list of personnel in charge of health and safety decisions. It should describe their individual responsibilities in regards to ensuring workplace safety. This section should begin with the head of the organisation who has overall, final responsibility for health and safety matters.
The next segment should list people who are responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the health and safety policy, for example, assistant managers, supervisors and team leaders.
Next, there should be precise details of the health and safety responsibilities of certain employees. For instance, who is to undertake risk assessments, develop emergency procedures, provide employees with health and safety training, and so on.
This segment may also include details of any third-party advisors who conduct accident investigations or act as consultants. Any persons that represent employees in health and safety matters should also be included, such as trade union safety representatives.
There should then be a statement on the general health and safety responsibilities of all employees.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 stipulates that employees have a legal duty to:
- Co-operate with supervisors and managers in regard to all health and safety matters
- Take reasonable care of their own health and safety
- Report any health and safety breaches or concerns to an appropriate person
Health and Safety Measures
The policy should clearly describe the health and safety measures and practices that will be utilised for all systems and procedures within the company. This section details how the company plans to achieve its statement of intent.
What is contained in this segment will depend on the nature of the business and the hazards and risks unique to each individual workplace. However, in general, the health and safety measures and arrangements segment should include details on:
- Hazards and risks specific to the workplace
- Risk assessments
- Safe systems of work
- Health and safety training
- Staff health and safety consultation procedures
- Incident and near-miss reporting procedures
- Emergency and evacuation procedures
Steps to Take After You Have Written a Health and Safety Policy
A HSE health and safety policy will be a meaningless bureaucratic exercise unless everyone in the organisation knows what’s in it and what it requires of them.
Once a health and safety policy has been produced, it should be posted in multiple public spaces around an organisation, as well as sent out to each employee individually, perhaps via email, newsletters or on noticeboards. The health and safety policy should also be regularly reviewed and updated.
The health and safety policy should be an essential component during forums such as health and safety committee meetings and should feature prominently in all employee training sessions.
To assist your business in meeting its health and safety obligations, you and your employees can participate in online training courses. There are several industry-specific courses available on the Human Focus website. Human Focus provides a wide selection of quality assured training courses that provide participants with recognised qualifications and certificates.