How to Write a Health and Safety Policy
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Health and safety policy
An anonymous quote on safety says ‘’Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it’’.
Organizations are required by law to have a Health and Safety Policy as a proof of their commitment to upholding good safety practices in their work places. According to OSHA the worker is entitled to a safe working environment.
In the UK, the law requires that you write down you Health and Safety Policy if you have five or more employees. For a fewer number of employees, you may not necessarily write you policy down but always remember that it does more good to have it written regardless of the number. It will always be a good reminder to your employees of acceptable behavior in your work environment.
A Health and Safety Policy is an organization’s overall plan of action and commitment towards maintaining a healthy and safe working environment on their job locations including the safety of employees and the environment.
A properly written Health and Safety Policy is part of an organization’s compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Act and relevant legislation in the country and state of its operation. It helps an organization meet its legal responsibility to care for the health and safety of its workers and ensures that all employees, including supervisors, have a proper understanding of their responsibilities and expected actions in a safety/emergency situation.
The requirements vary based on the size of the organization, the specific environment in which the organization operates and the prevailing conditions. The Coronavirus outbreak for instance has necessitated the addition of new measures to existing policies.
In addition to containing the company’s commitment to a safe work environment, a health and safety policy should contain the employer’s obligation to support the policy and standards for its enforcement.
It is also a regulatory requirement to ensure the appropriate use of personal protective equipment such as safety boots
Essential components of a Health and Safety Policy
A standard Health and Safety policy should include either some or all of the following depending on the nature of an organization’s operation. It should be dynamic enough to adjust to prevailing environmental situations including disease outbreaks.
· An organization’s/employer’s responsibilities to health and safety of workers and the environment.
· An employer’s commitment to providing suitable equipment, appropriate PPE and a sustained training on their proper use.
· A detailed employer commitment to ensuring physical and mental health of all workers and providing first aid where accidents occur
· A detailed responsibility of employees to ensuring a safe working environment, safety of colleagues and his/her personal safety. This should include: proper use of PPE, compliance with safety instructions, proper use of equipment, prompt, accurate and honest reporting of problems and cooperation with the employer on safety matters.
· A guide to safe handling and use of hazardous substances
· Consequences of employee non-compliance to safety standards and use of PPE
· Risk assessments
· Proper definition of responsibilities and delegation of authority
· Emergency response procedures and
· Comprehensive list of references to accompanying documents including: registers, procedures, work instructions, training materials
In periods of disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19, your health and safety policy should, in addition to the above, include:
· Travelling guidelines to and from work during the outbreak
· Guidelines for use of meeting rooms during the outbreak
· Proper use of additional PPE as required to control the spread of the outbreak
· Social distancing requirements during work and break hours as necessitated by the nature of the outbreak
How to write a health and safety policy
A comprehensive Health and Safety Policy should contain the items listed above. It could be broken into the following subsections for clarity and ease of understanding.
1. Statement of purpose
In this section, the employer/writer of the Health and Safety Policy should state the organization’s general policy on health and safety. This should emphasize the value the company places on health and safety of personnel and the environment in very clear language. It should show the organization’s commitment to ensuring that processes and operations are planned to run safely and the organization’s commitment to shutting down operations that compromise safety.
2. Individual responsibilities towards health and safety
Do not assume that employees will figure out what their responsibilities are when you write a Health and Safety Policy . State in clear terms the roles of all parties that have defined health and safety responsibilities in your organization. This should include their names, positions and specific roles. This section of the health and safety policy should be regularly updated as changes occur in the organization. As people grow in the team, their health and safety responsibilities change and should be tracked accordingly.
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3. Arrangements to ensure a safe and healthy work environment
In this section, you should provide and detailed and practicable strategy that will help your team achieve the desired result. It should include:
· Proper risk assessment, reviewed from time to time and in line changes in the nature of operation and work environment,
· Scheduled communication of company policy to employees through regular safety meetings or training,
· Pasting the company’s safety policy in strategic locations
· Ensuring that the safety policy manual is available to all employees
· Use of clear safety signs
· Regular maintenance of equipment and training of employees on safe use of such equipment and materials handling
What makes a Health and Safety Policy effective?
As mentioned above, companies are required by law to have a Health and Safety Policy . The question is why do some companies have a more effective health and safety policy than others?
An effective health and safety policy is written after a proper risk assessment of the organization’s work conditions and environment and with the involvement of senior management. It should not be adopted from a policy for another work environment
It should recognize:
The need for senior management commitment to ensuring safety and company’s preparedness to enforce compliance with safety guidelines
That commitment to health and safety can make significant contribution to business performance and the company’s cooperate image.
The importance of controlling loss of lives and injury through proper identification of all hazards
The value of continuous learning from experience through performance assessment and review within specified intervals.
The need for an organization to commit resources to back up its health and safety commitments
The need to ensure that all members of the organization develop a safety culture and look out for one another.
The need to encourage all members of staff to report safety concerns and incidents honestly and as accurately as possible and commend safe practices using such instruments as stop cards.
Some companies go as far as making the filling of stop cards a requirement for all members of staff and makes it an essential part of staff appraisals and performance reviews. In addition to this, the HSE Officer is mandated to organize a monthly safety meeting to ensure that all members of staff are kept in remembrance of the need for safe execution of their duties and the organization’s commitment to health and safety.
Safety meetings should be brief and straight to the point with a presentation on a safety issue. The responsibility of presenting in safety meetings should be rotated among members of staff to ensure that the safety culture is embedded in everyone.
It is very important to emphasize that each individual is the last line of defense in his own safety. Companies should therefore encourage their staff to discontinue an operation if it is considered unsafe. Evaluate the situation and put the right safety measures in place before proceeding.
An effective Health and Safety Policy should also define in clear language the consequences of an employee's non compliance to safety standards.
Consequences of non-compliance to Health and Safety Policy
It is the responsibility of the employer to have and ensure compliance with a Health and Safety Policy in his work place.
Where an employer fails to comply with this requirement, there can be serious consequences including litigation, fines, damage to the company’s reputation and ultimately withdrawal of operating license and possible imprisonment.
If on the other hand, an employee breaches the health and safety policy, he or she will be subject to the disciplinary actions according to the company’s policy and may ultimately be dismissed from the company.
In summary, remember that the price for working safely might be more time but working unsafely might cost your life. You are the last line of defense in your personal safety!
Think safety and work safely.
We appreciate your comments and would like to know how your team is implementing its health and safety policy.