Having a good health and safety policy delivers many benefits, including clear communication of your health and safety management. It is also a legal requirement. That's right, a health and safety policy isn't just a nice to have. It's not just needed by larger or more complex businesses. It's required by law for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Not sure what a health and safety policy is, or what it should include? Find out in our blog post, what is a health and safety policy?
Regulation 2 (3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires employers to prepare, and maintain up-to-date, a statement showing the policy on safety and the organisation and arrangements put in place to ensure the general policy is carried out. The employer must ensure that all employees are aware of the policy and any revision made to it.
It shall be the duty of every employer to prepare and as often as may be appropriate revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all of his employees.
So the law surrounding health and safety policies has been around for some time. This legal requirement has been in place for over 40 years!
You will notice that the act says that this is a duty of every employer. So, no matter your business size, if you have one or more employees, you need to have a written statement of your general health and safety policy. Now, this doesn't say you need to have a full written health and safety policy (more on that shortly). But it does say you need a written health and safety policy statement.
So far, we know that employers need to have a written statement under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA). But given that there are more than 100 health and safety regulations, you can bet that there is more guidance on health and safety policies elsewhere. And there is.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) contain more details under regulation 5 - health and safety arrangements. This section of the regulations puts a legal requirement on every employer to make and put in place appropriate health and safety arrangements.
- Every employer shall make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.
- Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1).
You will notice that the regulations also require that, where an employer employs 5 or more employees, these arrangements are recorded. This written document is known as a health and safety policy.
If you look at the requirements from the HSWA, you will notice it asks for a statement, organisation and arrangements. These are the three key sections of a health and safety policy. The statement acts as an introduction to the policy, detailing what it sets out to achieve. The organisation or responsibilities section gives information on the structure within the business, who is responsible for what. And the arrangements outline then what, when and how of your health and safety. What needs to be done, when and how work will be completed safely.
Find out more about the health and safety policy contents in what is a health and safety policy?
Ok, so now we know the health and safety policy is required by law and mentioned a few times in regulations. But who is responsible for writing the policy? Well, let's look again at the MHSWR.
(2) Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1).
The employer is responsible. He (or she) shall record the arrangements. This is one of the employer's duties. Now, that doesn't mean the employer needs to write every word of the policy. They may employ a competent person to assist them. They may have a health and safety manager put the policy together. But they should certainly have an influence on the contents. After all, they need to make sure those arrangements are made and put in place.
The health and safety policy statement should be signed and dated. This shows that the employer has complied with their legal duty to prepare a health and safety policy statement. And, it also shows that they are meeting the legal requirement to keep it revised as necessary.
This may be an update because there have been changes to work procedures or equipment. To change aims or goals. To introduce new control measures or arrangements. Because technology has changed. Or because the law has changed.
State your general policy on health and safety at work, including your commitment to managing health and safety and your aims. As the employer or most senior person in the company, you should sign it and review it regularly.
The employer should be the most senior person in the organisation. Usually the managing director. This is who should sign the health and safety policy statement.
While you need to develop your health and safety policy in order to comply with legal requirements, it should also be remembered that the development of a good health and safety policy will also benefit your organisation through improved safety management and accident prevention.
If you need help writing your policy, you can start with one of our health and safety policy templates.