How to create a health and safety policy

Businesses with five or more employees are required by law to have a health and safety policy. Yet for many busy small business owners, knowing where to start and what to include can be a daunting experience. This article from Edward Jones of Riverview Solicitors offers some practical guidance for businesses on getting started with health and safety, and looks at what a policy should include.

Creating a health and safety policy is very important as it protects you and your employees. However, it does not need to be over-complicated.  Businesses have a general duty to ensure the health and safety of anyone who could be affected by the work that they do. Employers who fail in their general duty of care, or fail to carry out other legal obligations, face the possibility of huge fines and even imprisonment.

However, there are a number of business benefits to be gained from effective health and safety management. Rather than simply dwelling on the penalties of health and safety breaches, you should look to the more positive aspects of managing risks. Effective health and safety management not only helps reduce the suffering caused by accidents and ill health, it also lessens the likelihood of any enforcement action.

Business benefits

These can include: 

• reduced costs;
• controlled risks;
• lower employee absence and turnover rates;
• fewer workplace accidents;
• reduced fear of prosecution;
• improved reputation among suppliers and clients; and
• increased productivity (due to a more motivated workforce).

The policy should set direction and some basic objectives. Legally it should include:
• a statement of intent (regarding legal obligations);
• a description of the management organisation in place for implementing the policy; and
• processes and procedures for implementing actions.

For example: [insert your company name] has established this Health and Safety Policy to ensure the Health, Safety and Welfare at work of all employees and others who may be affected by its activities. This policy will be implemented in all premises owned or controlled by the Company, and is applicable to all staff and visitors at our sites. This policy also applies to our staff working away from company sites.
 

Practicalities

You must ensure that: 

• the scope of the policy extends to the full range of your work activities;
• it is endorsed by the most senior person in the business and the policy statement bears their signature;
• you write it down;
• it is kept up to date by carrying out regular reviews and amending the content when things change;
• it is brought to the attention of anyone who would need to know about it, such as employees, contractors, prospective clients, suppliers, etc;

• you display an up to date copy of the policy statement prominently in all buildings and include it in site inductions so no one is in any doubt about it;
• it commits to meet legal requirements;
• employees or their representatives are involved in drawing up the policy;
• where responsibilities are allocated to people, you ensure that they are clear what they are expected to do and are competent to carry the task(s) out; and
• where competent persons are not available, you consider providing training or buying in expertise from outside.
 

Finally…

 Always remember the key steps regarding your business’ health and safety:

Step 1: Create and update
Step 2: Display and communicate
Step 3: Review

Step 1: Create and update:  Create or amend the existing health and safety policy, involving employees or their representatives.  Remember to check that the health and safety policy includes a commitment to at least meet legal obligations.
Step 2: Display and communicate:  Display the policy in all parts of the workplace and bring it to the attention of interested parties, particularly employees.
Check that people given responsibilities know what they are expected to do and that specialist tasks have only been allocated to people who are competent to carry them out, whether employees or contractors.
Step 3: Review:  Ensure that the health and safety policy is being regularly reviewed and that it remains appropriate to the scope of the business.

Further information about health and safety and an example of a health and safety policy can be found by registering for free on the Riverview Law website: www.riverviewlaw.com