A robust Health & Safety Policy is the cornerstone of effective health and safety management.
It sets out your general approach and commitment to keeping employees and members of the public safe and outlines the arrangements you have put in place to ensure risk is kept to a minimum.
What is a Health & Safety Policy, and why do I need one?
Under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974, if you employ five or more members of staff, it is a legal requirement to have a documented Health & Safety Policy. Businesses with fewer than five employees aren’t required to write anything down, but it is good practice to do so.
For employers, the purpose of a Health & Safety Policy is to demonstrate your attitude towards health and safety, as well as explain the steps, arrangements and systems you have in place to ensure your business complies with health and safety legislation.
Your policy should be specific to your business and your activities, and focus on how real risk will be managed. The length of your policy will typically depend on the severity and complexity of the inherent hazards present within your workplace.
As well as demonstrating your commitment to protecting people from risk, creating a Health & Safety Policy will help to give you direction by providing a clear outline of how you are going to manage health and safety in your organisation.
Although, legally, a Health & Safety Policy is only required to account for employees, it’s good practice to consider how you will protect the health and safety of other persons, including contractors, members of the public, and anyone who may be affected by your work activities.
What should a Health & Safety Policy contain?
In accordance with the HSWA 1974, your policy must cover three separate parts:
- Policy Statement of Intent
- Organisation of health and safety
- Arrangements for health and safety
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Part 1: Policy Statement of Intent
Your Policy Statement of Intent should detail your health and safety aims and objectives and set out how you intend to manage health and safety issues.
Using clear and simple language, your Statement of Intent should commit to:
- Identifying the main hazards and adequately controlling the associated risks;
- Meeting the requirements of the HSWA;
- Meeting the additional requirements of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
- Making sure employees are competent and adequately trained;
- Consulting employees on health and safety issues (this means giving them the necessary information, training and supervision);
- Having the resources to achieve the stated objectives; and
- Meeting specific health and safety performance targets.
The HSE advises that this first part of your Health & Safety Policy should:
- Emphasise the role of behaviour (“Through the way we work and behave, all our people and stakeholders will be protected from risks of occupational injury or ill health.”)
- Make it clear that the policy applies to all people who come into contact with your business (“We will ensure the health and safety at work of all our people and any other people who may be affected by our work activities.”)
- Pledge to go beyond raising awareness to fulfil your commitment to health and safety (“Adequate resources will be provided to ensure all our people, the sub-contractors and stakeholders are aware of this policy and committed to its effective implementation.”)
Your Statement of Intent should also set out how your Health & Safety Policy is to be communicated.
Find out how we support Bluestone Resort with their Health & Safety Policy.
Commitment to health and safety
Setting targets is an effective way to demonstrate your commitment to improving health and safety performance and can also help to motivate staff. Common targets include:
- Reducing the number of accidents, incidents and cases of work-related ill health;
- Improving sickness absence rates;
- Increasing the number of health and safety trained employees;
- Increased reporting of minor accidents and ‘near misses’;
- Reduced civil claims;
- Receiving zero enforcement notices; and
- Achieving recognised health and safety standards such as OHSAS 18001.
Part 2: The organisation of health and safety
This second part of your Health & Safety Policy should set out the names, positions and duties of those with specific responsibility for health and safety.
Don’t forget, under Section 7 of the HSWA, employees also have a legal duty to:
Take reasonable care of their own health and safety, as well as that of fellow employees and anyone else affected by what they do (or don’t do) at work. This covers the same broad public group that employers must protect, so not just the person on the next workbench or desk.
- Cooperate with their employer (and anyone else who has a health and safety duty placed upon them) so far as is necessary to help them to meet their obligations under health and safety law.
The organisation section of your Health & Safety Policy should summarise these duties so that employees are aware of the role they play in health and safety management.
Part 3: Arrangements for health and safety
The final part of your Health & Safety Policy identifies your arrangements for managing and controlling the health and safety risks present in your working environment and arising from your activities.
It should detail the specific systems and procedures you have put in place in order to fulfil the commitments outlined in the Statement of Intent. This will include:
- Your organisation’s health and safety rules and procedures;
- Your facilities, such as first aid and washrooms;
- Your risk assessments (including COSHH, PPE and manual handling);
- Your emergency arrangements (including your fire evacuation procedure); and
- The information, instruction, training and supervision you have provided to employees.
You should also include information about how particular arrangements are managed.
The arrangements section is likely to be the biggest part of your policy. That said, your Health & Safety Policy shouldn’t be complicated; it should serve to reflect what you do and how this is managed. If in doubt, seeking help from a competent health and safety professional will take the pressure off this potentially time-consuming task and ensure all aspects are covered.
How often should I review my Health & Safety Policy?
There is no set time frame for renewing your Health & Safety Policy; however, it’s good practice to review and revise your policy as often as is necessary to keep your employees safe.
This would include completing a risk assessment and updating your policy whenever employees have to complete a new task with associated risks. You must also review the contents of your policy after accidents, near misses and when significant changes in personnel or work practices occur, to ensure your policies and procedures are robust, identify and rectify any areas where they fall short, and keep the information up-to-date.
As a general rule, it is good practice to review (and if necessary, revise) your Health & Safety Policy every 12 months.
Who should write my Health & Safety Policy?
A written Health & Safety Policy is the centrepiece of safety management. It should clearly persuade, explain, assign and insist on the who, what, where and why you are managing risk.
When it comes to health and safety, creating a written policy is the biggest task you will need to complete as an employer – and there can be no ‘one size fits all’ answer, so template policies are likely to fall short.
That’s why having a professional health and safety company write your Health & Safety Policy is so important, as it’s the best way to guarantee that your policy accurately reflects your values and your approach.
If you don’t have the necessary skills, experience or time to create your own, Ellis Whittam’s team of Health & Safety specialists can tailor one to suit.
Our Health & Safety experts will:
- Craft your policy to help ensure you are fully compliant and have covered all bases;
- Act as your legally required competent person to support you in meeting the requirements of health and safety law;
- Conduct an on-site General Risk Assessment to identify any areas of non-compliance and work with you to find workable solutions; and
- Provide 24/7 support with all health and safety challenges.
Why Ellis Whittam?
Health and safety law is vast and complex. Missing the mark can not only put your reputation at stake, but with rising health and safety fines, greater enforcement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and directors being jailed, it’s never been more important to adopt a pro-active approach to health and safety management.
Ellis Whittam’s fixed-fee support cuts out the complexity and removes health and safety guesswork. Your consultant will help to identify at-risk areas and work with you to implement practical control measures that effectively reduce risk without compromising your ability to achieve your objectives.
Assured advice you can trust
All of our experienced consultants have genuine hands-on experience backed up by outstanding relevant qualifications recognised by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). We’re also the first health and safety consultancy to receive assured advice status from an enforcing authority, known as a Primary Authority.
Based on our expertise, we reduce the risk of prosecution by c.50% and the cost of any fine imposed by more than 85%.
To find out how our fixed-fee service can help to protect your business, take the hassle out of day-to-day health and safety management, and save you valuable time and money, call 0345 226 8393.