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Small business health and safety policy – what should I include?

4-minute read

A business owner filling out a health and safety assessment on her computer.
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

27 October 2023

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A health and safety policy is an important document that a business can use to outline its health and safety standards.

Keep reading to learn what to include in your own health and safety policy to make sure you’re covered – and also find out why you need one and how to make sure it complies with the law.

What is a health and safety policy?

Whether you’re self-employed, run a partnership, or a limited company, a health and safety policy is an important document that all businesses need to have.

A health and safety policy provides more structure for growing businesses that are hiring new staff, implementing new processes, or moving to new premises.

Every business’s policy will be different depending on how many employees they have and what sector they operate in. However, all policies will include information on key topics such as first aid and risk assessments.

A good health and safety statement will be clear, accessible, and easy for employees to understand.

What to include in a health and safety policy

A health and safety policy clearly explains what it’s there to do, including:

  • understanding and managing risks
  • maintaining safe conditions for employees and the public
  • keeping staff up to date with changes to the company’s processes

It’ll need to outline who’s responsible for each area of health and safety, including things like first aid, fire safety, and relevant training.

Most health and safety policies also explain the procedure for when accidents happen and all the information staff need to know about the company’s health and safety practices.

How to write a health and safety policy

Most health and safety policies are split into three parts: a statement of intent, responsibilities, and arrangements. Keep reading to learn more about each part.

Statement of intent

This section will give an overview of your company’s approach to health and safety.

It’ll usually give details of the policy’s aims, such as:

  • maintaining safe and healthy working conditions
  • managing risks effectively
  • reviewing and revising the policy regularly
  • training staff on health and safety

Responsibilities for health and safety

This section will outline who’s responsible for each health and safety responsibility and their role in the business. For example, your HR director may also be your designated first aider.

It’s important to make sure that you appoint people with the right skills for each position.

Arrangements for health and safety

This part of the policy will explain how you’ll achieve the health and safety aims set out in the statement of intent. It’ll give details of the arrangements you have in place, for example:

  • completing risk assessments
  • putting up relevant safety signs
  • training employees regularly

The arrangements section is also where you’ll set out what’ll happen if people don’t follow the company’s health and safety procedures.

Health and safety regulations you need to know

If you don’t have a company health and safety policy in place, you could be breaking the law.

Businesses in England, Wales, and Scotland need to comply with the following health and safety regulations:

The HSWA sets out your responsibilities as an employer on keeping your people and members of the public safe. It also details how employees are expected to look after themselves.

To do this, you’ll need an up to date health and safety policy document.

If you have five or more employees, the policy will need to be in writing. Even if you’re a sole trader and work with contractors, it’s useful to have everything written down in the event of an incident, or if you’re hoping to expand in the future.

You’ll also need to make sure your risk assessment process is up to date, and that you meet any industry-specific regulations, such as Nataha’s Law for catering businesses.

Read more: What is an occupational health assessment?

Reporting workplace accidents

You’re required by law to report certain work-related injuries and illnesses. If you have more than 10 employees, then this must also be recorded in an accident book (this can also be helpful if you need to make a claim on your insurance).

What type of accidents need to be reported?

The Health and Safety Executive is a government resource, which details the specific types of reportable incidents and injuries. These include:

  • certain injuries to workers, such as fractures and serious burns
  • loss of consciousness caused by head injury or asphyxia
  • occupational diseases (for example carpal tunnel syndrome or occupational dermatitis)
  • dangerous occurrences and near-misses (such as electrical incidents causing a fire)
  • gas incidents

The HSE also explains when an incident should be recorded but not reported, and when you need to do both.

How to submit a report

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) is the legislation that requires businesses to report such work-place incidents. Only ‘responsible persons’ can submit a report, and you’ll need to use the relevant form on the HSE website.

When recording people’s personal information, make sure you’re following GDPR and data protection legislation.

Does my business need a health and safety policy?

As well as being a legal requirement, a health and safety policy helps you to make sure you have the right processes in place and that people are accountable for key areas of health and safety, such as first aid.

A health and safety policy allows you to manage risk and reduce the chances of accidents happening, helping your business to grow and run smoothly.

How often should a business review its health and safety policy?

Your health and safety at work policy should be reviewed at least once a year. It’s likely you’ll need to review the policy if you make any significant changes to your business, such as:

  • working with new equipment or machinery
  • starting a new department within the business
  • moving to a new location or refurbishing your current premises

Another reason you may need to review your health and safety policy is if an incident occurs, such as staff raising safety concerns about processes or someone getting seriously injured because of an accident.

How to review a health and safety policy

Reviewing your health and safety policy is an important process, but it shouldn’t be too complicated.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • look over your policy and make sure it reflects the business as it’s currently operating
  • conduct risk assessments and inspections, speaking with key members of staff to make sure everything is covered
  • make a record of discussions and suggested changes to the policy

Once you’ve decided what changes you’re going to make, you’ll need to update your policy with any new information and a refreshed date.

You’ll then need to make it available to staff and replace the old version anywhere where it’s published, such as in your office or on the company intranet.

More policy guidance for your small business

Do you need employers’ liability insurance?

If you employ people, having employers’ liability insurance is likely to be a legal requirement.

This cover can protect your business when health and safety issues occur if your employees get injured or sick as a result of working for you.

Read our guide to employers’ liability insurance to find out how much it costs, what it covers, and how claims work.

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As one of the UK's biggest business insurance providers, we specialise in public liability insurance and protect more trades than anybody else. Why not take a look now and build a quick, tailored quote?

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Photo: Jacob Lund/stock.adobe.com
Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

​​Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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