When was the last time you carried out a formal review of your health and safety policies, documentation and procedures? Having your health and safety documentation in place is great, but with the year going by so fast, it's also important to remember when it is time for your annual health and safety review.
As it is the start of a new year, now is a great time to review your health and safety documentation and management procedures. To check that your paperwork is still accurate, after all, things change over time. And, to check that your policies and procedures are working, and keeping people safe, which is the purpose of them in the first place. So in your annual review, look at:
This annual review doesn't mean you need to re-do everything. You don't need to fully re-write every document necessarily. It just means you need to review your existing documentation and policies to ensure they are up to date, working, and compliant with best practice and current legislation.
Not only should your health and safety documents be legally compliant, but they also need to be read and understood by your team and others. They are also regularly requested by potential clients, investors, stakeholders and insurance companies. So your health and safety records must be clear and communicate the current priorities, arrangements and targets for your business.
If you haven't reviewed your documentation for a while, you might be surprised how much has changed. You should review your health and safety documentation if it is no longer valid or there is any significant change. Small changes over time might not trigger a review mid-year, but together, these small changes add up. So it's good practice to review your health and safety policy, and other documentation such as risk assessments as a whole, at least annually.
If you are changing your work practices, or regulations changes happen mid-year, you should review your documents at that time, to keep them up to date.
- Any assessment such as is referred to in paragraph (1) or (2) shall be reviewed by the employer or self-employed person who made it if—
- there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid; or
- there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates; and where as a result of any such review changes to an assessment are required, the employer or self-employed person concerned shall make them.
Changes to health and safety regulations can happen in April and October each year, so it's worth checking the HSE website, trade and industry resources and other sources of information (like our blog) to see what changes are happening.
You might also have changes in your work activities. New machinery and equipment, new staff, new methods of work. Does your paperwork cover these new ways of working?
And your annual review shouldn't just focus on things that have changed, but also be a chance to improve. Looking beyond documents and what's written down, how is your health and safety performance? Review the results of audits and checks. Check near-miss reports. Assess accident statistics. Get feedback from your team.
This review should cover all levels of your business. Are employees, and management and the employer, all working together. Do your policies and procedures work at all levels of the business. Is everyone doing what they need to do? Are inspections being carried out when they should? Are rules being followed? Do problems get resolved quickly?
The annual review means you can identify any areas that need changing or updating, and make the necessary improvements. You might identify policy updates, problems to fix, training requirements or additional checks that are needed. You might find processes that need updating, hazards that need controlling or communication issues. These are all things that can be put in planned for in the year ahead and used to positively promote health and safety performance. Each year, comparing against the last and moving forward with a safer and healthier team.
It doesn't matter when in the year you do your review. It could be at the start of the year, the start of the tax year, or at any other time of your choice. the important thing is you carry out your annual review around the same time every year so that your documents and procedures don't go out of date.
Make sure the review is carried out according to the plans, and that a report is issued to senior leaders at least annually.
Remember that best practice is to review if you need to make any changes to your health and safety documentation at least annually. But you might need to carry out reviews more frequently for example:
The above might sound time-consuming, but keeping your health and safety documentation accurate and up to date can save you time and money in the long-term. How? Because good health and safety can save you money. You may identify a weakness or a failing in your review that can improve health and safety performance, reducing absences and risks, and improving productivity by protecting your workforce.
Do you need help keeping your health and safety documentation up to date? We have a large library of health and safety policy documents, health and safety forms and risk assessment templates you can edit and use for your business activities.