How to develop an effective health and safety policy

Good H&S practices are essential in your workplace

What does the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise?

The HSE notes that most businesses use a three-part approach to health and safety policies:

Part 1 – The statement of general policy on health and safety at work

This is a little like a mission statement that describes the aims for health and safety in your business. Make it clear, succinct, and easy to understand. A couple of paragraphs and a few bullet points should be all that is required here.

Part 2 – The responsibility section

In this section, you’ll identify who is responsible for health and safety within your organisation, and detail their specific health and safety roles.

Part 3 – The arrangements section

This is the real meat of the policy. It provides the detail about how you manage health and safety in the workplace. Specifically, it will provide guidance on how you control the hazards and risks pertinent to your business activities.

Using this structure for your health and safety policy will provide the framework to ensure it covers all it must, while keeping it manageable and accessible to all your employees.

So, how do you develop an effective H&S policy?

In our experience, there are eight steps you must take to ensure you develop an effective health and safety policy:

1.      Use easy-to-understand language

Avoid technical jargon and words that most people will need to look up in a dictionary to understand.

2.      Use definitive, non-ambiguous statements

Make sure your policy is definitive in its approach to health and safety. State clearly what you mean. Avoid woolly statements such as “We will use a wide range of tools to avoid accidents in the workplace”. You must be more specific than this.

3.      Get the views of your employees

It’s a good idea to create a health and safety committee, including employees on it. This ensures they understand that you want to work with them to make their workplace the safest it can be. You reinforce your respect for them, their views, and their safety. And what better way to identify workplace hazards and risks than asking the people who work with them every day?

4.      Keep it legal and compliant

Ensure that your policy reflects current legal requirements, and that it complies with those requirements (for example, the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Work at Height Regulations 2005, etc.)

5.      Review your policy regularly

Your business will change over time. You may move premises, expand your product range, update working practices, commission new equipment and machinery, and so on. It follows that your health and safety policy should also evolve. It must be a living document under constant review to ensure it remains relevant and fit for purpose.

6.      Identify a health and safety hierarchy

Make sure that you identify those people who will be responsible for health and safety issues within your organisation. Give them clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and ensure there is no overlap between these roles – this will only cause confusion.

Again, get your employees involved. Everyone has a duty of reasonable care for their own and other’s safety. Ensure your employees know and understand this.

7.      Get specific about H&S systems and procedures

In the arrangements section of your policy (part 3), be very specific about how you will manage and control risks in the workplace. For example:

  • Provide details about your risk assessments, and health and safety rules and procedures.
  • Detail actions to be taken in emergencies, and about facilities such as first aid rooms.
  • Include items such as training procedures, policies for dealing with visitors, smoking, drugs and alcohol policies, etc.

There is an art to making the arrangements section effective; it must be detailed but not long-winded, and easy to understand.

8.      Provide resources for health and safety issues

You will miss the aims of your health and safety policy if you don’t provide the resources to achieve those aims.

If you don’t have a fit-for-purpose health and safety policy, you may need to get professional health and safety help to assess your key risks, identify hazards, and outline plans and detail specific health and safety activities that are required.

Our comprehensive suite of H&S documents includes health and safety policy templates, to help you stay compliant with all health and safety laws. They are easy to use, maintain, and access, and can be branded for your business. For more information, contact Sentry today.

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