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23rd April, 2019

What Is A Health And Safety Policy?

A health and safety policy is one of the primary documents all organisations should have in place. In this blog post, we will look at what a health and safety policy is, and what it should contain.

What is a health and safety policy?

A health and safety can be described as the health and safety plan of action for a business. It lets people, like employees, clients and others associated with the business, know your health and safety aims and arrangements. It shows your commitment to health and safety and gives instructions and information.

A course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual.

Oxford English Dictionary Policy

Your health and safety policy will include a statement of aims and objectives. Like providing a safe environment, and a commitment to reducing accidents. It will detail health and safety duties and responsibilities within the business. The policy will set out arrangements like systems and procedures that are followed to control work and carry it out safely.

health and safety success
What would health and safety success be? That's your aim!

The three main sections of a health and safety policy are:

  • Policy statement
  • Responsibilities
  • Arrangements

The health and safety policy sets out your health and safety framework. It says what will be done, and how it will be done. It should be clear and structured so that the information contained is easily accessible. Generally, people don't sit down and read a health and safety policy cover to cover. They should be able to jump to the section they need information on and get that information relatively easily.

It's not a dumping place for all your health and safety paperwork. It doesn't have to include every risk assessment and coshh assessment for your business activities. But rather, describe the arrangements in place for carrying these out. It won't include all your training certificates, but it will detail when training is delivered, what types and how training needs are assessed.

Health and safety policies shouldn't be rigid, written once and forgotten about. As a business develops and changes over time, people leave and join. The organisation may grow. New procedures and technology get introduced. The law might change. It is important that the health and safety policy remains relevant and accurate. So it should be regularly reviewed and updated.

Do you need a health and safety policy?

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.

Every business should have a health and safety policy. It helps set safety standards, win work, and gain accreditations for the business. It can bring many benefits, improve performance and enforce standards. It is also a legal requirement.

Every employer should have at least a written health and safety policy statement. If you employ 5 or more employees, then you must have a written health and safety policy.

We cover the law and requirements for health and safety policies, including when you need one and who's responsible in our blog post health and safety policy legal requirements.

What should a health and safety policy include?

The specific contents of a health and safety policy will vary from business to business. Some small business will have a fairly compact and straightforward policy. Some larger organisations might need additional health and safety policies for each department or site. However, there are some main sections of content that every health and safety policy should include.

  • Statement
  • Responsibilities
  • Arrangements

Statement

The health and safety policy statement sets the tone for the attitude towards health and safety. What are you hoping to achieve? What aims and objectives are you working towards? What progress have you already made?

Think of this section like an introduction to your policy. The purpose of the arrangements and responsibilities that will be detailed in later sections. It should make it clear what your commitment is towards health and safety. It will communicate the employer's responsibilities towards employees, and others, and employees responsibilities.

Specific measurable targets and progress charts can also be included within the statement. Measurable goals are a great way of bringing your health and safety policy to life, and getting people invested in its success.

The statement should be signed and dated by the most senior person (like the managing director).

health and safety policy signing
The statement should be signed and dated

Responsibilities

This section outlines the chain of command in relation to health and safety. Who is responsible for what, who is reportable to who, and how is accountability fixed to make sure these responsibilities are carried out.

This might include responsibilities for inspections, first aid, fire precautions and drills, training, testing and monitoring. It may assign roles like health and safety managers, first aiders, fire marshalls, managers, supervisors and safety monitors.

Make sure to discuss these duties in advance. Everyone, including managers, supervisors and others with specific health and safety responsibilities needs to know about them. They need to accept their duties. They need to know what is expected. They need to know how their performance will be measured and monitored. Where they can go for help, and what resources they have available.

Don't forget about employee responsibilities. This is also a good place to communicate the minimum standards expected of every worker.

Arrangements

This section will detail how the policy will be implemented with practical arrangements for risks within the business. Think about your work and what arrangements are needed to carry it out safely.

For example, what plant and equipment do you use? What arrangements do you have in place to make sure that it is in a safe condition? How do you make sure it stays safe? Who is allowed to use it? What training is required? These are the types of arrangements that can be documented in your policy.

What health and safety regulations apply to your work? Some regulations, like the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR), apply to every business. Some regulations, like the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) only apply to those businesses carrying out work involving lifting.

health and safety policy
The arrangements section is usually the largest section of the policy

Arrangements may include:

  • Safe systems of work
  • Equipment and machinery safety
  • Storage handling and use of hazardous substances
  • Training needs and requirements
  • Supervision
  • Communication
  • Fire safety arrangements
  • First aid arrangements
  • Welfare arrangements
  • Dust, noise, vibration and other hazards
  • Arrangements for undertaking risk assessments
  • Permit to work requirements
  • Recording keeping
  • Accident reporting and investigation
  • Arrangements for visitors
  • Arrangements for contractors and other workers
  • Emergency arrangements
  • Monitoring arrangements

Not every business will face the same health and safety challenges, so not every health and safety policy will look alike. Your health and safety policy should address the issues present in your business. It should be relevant and proportionate to the business size, risk and complexity.


Need help producing a health and safety policy? Create yours with a health and safety policy template that can be edited for your business.

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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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