13th April, 2022

The Legal Requirement For A Health And Safety Policy

What is the legal requirement for a health and safety policy? Having a good health and safety policy gives your business many benefits, including clear communication of your health and safety management. It is also a legal requirement. By law, businesses of all shapes and sizes need one.

The Legal Requirement For A Health And Safety Policy header image

What is the legal requirement for a health and safety policy? Having a good health and safety policy gives your business many benefits, including clear communication of your health and safety management. It is also a legal requirement. By law, businesses of all shapes and sizes need one.

A health and safety policy isn't just something to show off to your clients or tick a box on a questionnaire. It's a legal requirement.

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?

Health and safety policies are required by law. The specific requirements are detailed in two key pieces of legislation:

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA)

Regulation 2 (3) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires employers to prepare and maintain 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 revisions 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.

This law surrounding health and safety policies has been around for some time. The HSWA has been in place for nearly 50 years!

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)

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.

health and safety policy legal text

The MHSWR 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1).

What does the law say a health and safety policy should contain?

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?

What type of business needs a health and safety policy?

Every type of business needs a health and safety policy, not just larger or more complex businesses. A policy is required by law for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

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 [...]

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.

The law doesn't say you need to have a full written health and safety policy (more on that shortly). But it does say that every employer needs a written health and safety policy statement.

When does a business only need a policy statement?

Not every business needs to have a fully developed health and safety policy.

  1. Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1).

If you have less than 5 employees, you don't need to record all of the arrangements in writing.

For less than 5 employees, you just need a health and safety policy statement.

But having a good health and safety policy delivers many benefits, including clear communication of your health and safety management.

And even if a full health and safety policy isn't a legal requirement for your business (where you employ less than 5 employees) it might still be a contractual requirement (your clients wants you to have one). It might also be a requirement to gain a particular level of accreditation or approval. This is often the case in higher-risk industries, like construction.

Who is responsible for writing the health and safety policy?

Ok, so now we know the health and safety policy is required by law. It's mentioned a few times in health and safety regulations. But who is responsible for writing the policy? Well, let's look again at the MHSWR.

  1. 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. It's is one of the employer's duties.

That doesn't mean the employer needs to write every word of the policy. They may employ a competent person to assist them. In larger businesses, they may even have a health and safety manager put the policy together.

Whatever the arrangements, the employer should certainly influence the contents. After all, they need to make sure those arrangements are made and put in place. And they have the ultimate responsibility (and need to sign it).

Who needs to sign the health and safety policy?

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 updated as necessary.

signing the health and safety policy

There 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 health and safety policy should be signed by the employer. In a smaller business, it will be fairly obvious who this is. In larger businesses, the employer should be the most senior person in the organisation. Usually, this is the managing director.


Your health and safety policy needs to comply with legal requirements, but 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.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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