A Guide To Writing Your Health And Safety Policy And Procedures
You’re trying to write your own health and safety policy and procedures, right? You know you have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to provide a safe working environment. You know you need to have written health and safety policy and procedures detailing how you will fulfil your obligation under specific areas of safety legislation.
So, what’s your problem? Why are you searching for information on policies and procedures?
Put simply, you’re worried.
You know the consequences of getting it wrong. You want to make sure you don’t miss anything, you don’t want to risk non-compliance, and you don’t want to make any mistakes. Prosecution fines can kill your business. Legislation is there to keep people safe, and missing could ultimately get someone killed.
That may be a bit blunt, but health and safety is a serious subject. Your health and safety policy and procedures form the backbone of your health and safety management system, so it’s really important that you get them right.
Before we give you our recommendations for writing your own health and safety policy and procedures, please ask yourself one question:
Do you have someone in your business that is competent to manage safety?
If not, who is going to be writing your policy and procedures? How do you know they won’t miss something? We can advise you of the best route to compliance and the approximate cost, whether it is through training, consultancy or a combination of both. Contact us to find out how much you should budget. Competency is an absolute must when writing your health and safety policy and procedures, and indeed, managing safety in general.
Now, let’s get to the point. Below are our recommendations for writing your own health and safety policy and procedures.
Your Health and Safety Policy
A health and safety policy defines how a business will manage their tasks and workplace(s) in a safe manner, ensuring that any hazards are mitigated or controlled and individuals are unharmed. If you have 5 or more employees you need to have a written policy – by law.
Your health and safety policy is comprised of the following sections (we will go into further detail for each later):
- Statement of intent – a document that outlines your company’s aims and objectives for managing health and safety in the workplace. Your business’ policy statement is an opportunity for the senior director(s) or manager(s) to outline their commitment to health and safety.
- Roles and Responsibilities – a document detailing the responsibilities for individual management roles. It should be signed by all relevant parties, including the Responsible Person for safety, so they acknowledge their responsibilities for safety.
Your health and safety policy combines with your procedures, arrangements and risk assessments to form the basis of your health and safety management system, which helps you actively manage health and safety in your workplace.
Your Policy should be:
- Brief! No need for waffling.
- Written with clear, jargon-free language and broken down into bullet points or separate sections for ease of reading.
- Signed by the most senior employee in the company, i.e. the Managing Director or CEO.
- Specific to your business. If you need help from a consultant, they should be working with you to ensure the statement reflects your business correctly.
- Be displayed in prominent places in the workplace (on health and safety noticeboards if you have them)
- Be communicated to all employees – i.e. in induction training, refresher training, ‘toolbox talks’ etc.
- Reviewed regularly. Your policy statement should be reviewed at least once a year or when changes in legislation or in your business mean it is no longer relevant.
When drafting your policy statement, here are some suggestions on what to consider and include:
- Your business aims for health and safety. I.e. “To cause no harm to employees or other persons”.
- Include an outline of your basic commitments to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Common examples we see include: to provide and maintain a working environment where accidents are not expected to occur; to provide suitable welfare facilities, such as toilets, washing facilities and drinking water; to consult with employees on a day to day basis about health and safety conditions; to provide adequate information and training to ensure employees are competent to do their work.
- Measurable objectives for health and safety in your business. This includes specific performance targets for health and safety such as;
- A reduction in the number of accidents/incidents/sickness absences;
- Improved audit scores;
- Achievement of accreditation to one of the SSIP accreditation schemes;
- Achieving ISO 45001 (was previously known as OHSAS 18001).
You need to take into account any major hazards and risks as your aims will need to reflect these.
Roles and Responsibilities
When drafting your roles and responsibilities you should include:
- The name and position of the most senior employee of the company responsible for health and safety, i.e. your responsible person.
- The names of the health and safety advisor/manager, and employee representatives.
- The general duties of employees.
- The names of employees responsible for ensuring implementation of each of your aims and objectives.
- The specific responsibilities of each party.
Remember you should consider getting signatures of every employee to acknowledge they have read, discussed and understood their role responsibilities for health and safety.
Health & Safety Procedures
Health and safety procedures are essentially your ‘how to’ manual for safety. It documents in detail which legislation you have a duty to manage, and exactly what you will do to fulfil that duty. It needs to be detailed but relevant.
Here’s an example of relevance. If you are a steel manufacturer you would have duties under PUWER for management of equipment. You would not include a detailed account of laundry safety and its associated legislation requirements.
When putting your procedures together, you should consider the activities undertaken, the inherent risks, and the legislation specific to your business. Let’s use training as an example for this section.
For training (and any other activity, risk or applicable legislation) you should record the following:
- The activity and your main duty under that legislation/regulation (may be more than one applicable). For example, ‘The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that employers provide all employees with adequate health and safety training.’
- Any specific tasks that need to be undertaken for that activity. For example, ‘Any trainers should themselves be given adequate training, guidance and instruction’, ‘health and safety training should be given to all employees and on induction’, ‘specific training is required for various job roles, as specified in document x’, ‘training provided to all employees should include the following subjects…’, ‘training must be provided where changes are identified, such as…’. You get the point. Go into detail. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and only provides some examples to get you started.
- Identify responsibilities. Record which person or role is responsible for the correct use of the procedure. E.g. All line managers will be responsible for managing the training needs for their employees.
- Records. List all of the records and / or where data/information related to the procedure will be stored. I.e. Employee training records are stored in the HR office.
If you are unsure which legislation applies to your business, you can find a list of legislation here.
Hopefully this post has given you some things to think about when creating new, reviewing or updating your existing health and safety policy and procedures for your business.
We always recommend that you start by understanding your business, how it operates and what tasks / activities are undertaken. Makes notes and write everything you think is relevant, that way your health and safety policy and procedures will reflect your business.