It is a legal requirement for every business within the UK to have a policy in place for managing its health and safety – FACT.
But what is a health and safety policy?
This is a question that we are frequently asked, and in its most basic format it is your general approach to health and safety, which will explain how you, as an employer will manage health and safety within your business. Crucial to any policy is that it should clearly state who does what, when and how.
However, this is not always the case, and in our experience we have seen a wide range of pitfalls from organisations that have left them facing a series of compliance-related issues. The most common pitfall being that a company has a policy is in place, but it is not up-to-date. A great health and safety policy should be a ‘living document’ that is regularly updated and amended as things change within your organisation.
Key Tip: It is a good idea to make notes within the ‘master’ copy of your policy as you go throughout the year. Then when it comes the policy’s annual review, the changes can then be amended and inserted all at once.
What should my Health and Safety Policy contain?
When writing your health and safety policy, there are four key steps that you should follow, as stated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) below. However, to help you during the creation process of these we have also included the most common errors that we frequently see, to help you avoid them.
Part One – Statement of Intent
HSE Requirement – State your general policy on health and safety at work, including your commitment to managing health and safety and your aims. The most senior person in the company should then sign the policy and ensure that it is reviewed regularly.
What to avoid:
In our experience we frequently see that the Statement of Intent is not signed off by the most senior member of staff within an organisation. Instead, it is often delegated to the Director that is responsible for safety. This should be avoided because it can cause confusion about who is ultimately responsible for health and safety within an organisation.
Part Two – Responsibilities for Health and Safety
HSE Requirement – List the names, positions and roles of the people in your business who have specific responsibility for health and safety.
What to avoid:
This section of the policy is where you should set out the structure for managing health and safety within your organisation – e.g. a specific health and safety management hierarchal structure chart of staff.
The reason for the creation of this is so that staff know who they should go to if they want a health and safety related matter dealt with. However, we often see that instead of a specific health and safety chart being placed into the policy, a general organisational structure chart has been inserted.
This is an important aspect that needs to be avoided. Why? So that your staff can easily deal with any health and safety matters that may arise without confusion or delay, as delay may cause greater health and safety issues resulting in financial or legal issues.
Key Tip: To help with the creation of the structure chart it may be easier to use specific job titles instead of names. This will mean that should individuals leave the company, the chart may not need completely re-doing should the new individual in that role have the same responsibility as their predecessor did.
Part Three – Arrangements for Health and Safety
HSE Requirement – Give details of the practical arrangements you have in place, showing how you will achieve your health and safety policy aims. This could include; undertaking a risk assessment, training employees and using safety signs or equipment.
What to avoid:
The arrangements section of the policy is where you set out how you will do things from a safety perspective. Consequently, it needs to be regularly revised to reflect any changes in your business activities, so that it accurately reflects what you do.
In our experience working across a variety of sections including; education, property, healthcare, sport and leisure, we often see that the arrangements will cover all of the aspects of your Head Office, but will not cover employees going out into the field. It is important that all risks that your employees face are considered from office workers to field staff, to ensure that you have the correct arrangements in place for managing these risks.
Part Four – Sharing changes with employees
HSE Requirement – You must share your health and safety policy and any changes to it with your staff. All employees should receive induction training, where they should be told where to access the policy and how they can raise any health and safety issues.
What to avoid:
You should inform your employees about any changes that are made to the health and safety policy. However, we often find that this is not the case, meaning that employees are potentially working unsafely. It is a legal requirement for you to share your policy with your employees, and failure to do so will leave you in a vulnerable legal and financial position – do not let this happen. Keep your employees up-to-date with your policy, and keep a record to note who the policy has been shared with, and when it was.
Receiving assistance with your health and safety policy
Creating a suitable health and safety policy can be a challenge, however it is important that you get it right to ensure the safety of your staff. If you are undertaking the creation of a policy, or have one in place and would like it reviewed, we can assist you.
Our expert and qualified Health and Safety Consultants can work with you to produce a Health and Safety policy as either a one-off piece of work, or as part of a longer-term level of support.