Policy writing doesn’t sound fun and sounds like a huge task when first considered by employers. But it’s an important part of your business policy and strategy and it’s step 1 in your plan to improving health and safety.
Statement of intent
This statement of intent section is sometimes called the employer’s general statement of intent. This should outline in broad terms your organisation’s overall philosophy in relation to the management of health and safety. It sets out how your organisation intends to manage health and safety overall. The statement should contain your organisation’s goals. These can be broken down further into safety aims (which are not measurable) and objectives (which are measurable). The targets you include in your statement are very important and display the commitment from your organisation to health and safety, they should be specific to your business and driven by improving your health and safety performance.
The statement section doesn’t need to contain a great amount of detail and can be quite short in length as long as it gets the adequate points across. Some companies find it useful to use bullet points or a collection of small statements. As a minimum your statement should include:
- Identify the principal hazards to employees and others affected by your work, and control the associated risks adequately
- Meet the basic requirements of the HSWA: maintain so far as reasonably practicable healthy and safe working conditions e.g. access, egress, safe plant, equipment and systems of work, use, handling, transport and handling of articles and substances
- Meet the additional requirements of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999: risk assessments, emergency procedures and health surveillance
- Make sure employees are competent to do their tasks and provide appropriate and adequate training
- Consult employees on Health & Safety issues possibly using a safety committee and give them the necessary information, training and supervision
- Regularly review and if required revise the safety policy
- Meet specific immediate and long-term Health & Safety performance targets
- Have the resources to achieve the objectives outlined in the policy statement
- How the policy will be communicated
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Risk Assessment Guide
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This section outlines the chain of command and who is responsible for what. It should contain the names, positions and duties of those within your organisation who have specific responsibility for health and safety. This is most often done through an organisational chart that shows the hierarchy of seniority within your organisation. It’s important to include Directors, Managers and Supervisors, specialists such as Safety Advisers or Contractors. The Health and Safety at Work Act says the most senior person in your business has responsibility for ensuring the policy is communicated to all employees.
The responsibility placed on individuals must not contain overlaps or have the chains of command blurred. Each individual must be clear about their responsibilities and their limits. Don’t get too job specific. You only need to outline the responsibilities that concern health and safety. In this section you should think about:
- Who is responsible to whom and for what?
- What is the accountability protocol to ensure that delegated responsibilities are undertaken?
- How is policy implementation monitored
- Individual job descriptions having recognised safety content
- Details of specific safety responsibilities
- The role and function of safety committee(s)
- The role and function of safety representatives
- A management chart clearly showing the lines of responsibility and accountability in terms of health and safety management.
This section of your policy should identify the specific arrangements and systems you have in place to control health and safety. It should be concise, but specific, include rules, procedures and facilities such as wash room and first aid kits. Fire risk assessment documents as well as other risk assessments can be included in this section. This section is also the largest out of the three, the whole policy should be an evolving document but this section in particular will change the most as risk assessments and methods of working are reviewed and updated. Things to think about here will differ depending on your business operations but might include:
- Employee Health & Safety Codes of Practice
- Accident and illness reporting and investigation procedures
- Emergency/fire drill procedures
- Risk assessment procedures
- First aid procedures
- Control of exposure to specific hazards: noise, vibration, manual handling, hazardous substances, etc.
- Machinery safety
- Maintenance/PAT testing of electrical equipment
- Maintenance procedures
- PPE use
- Monitoring procedures including Health & Safety inspections
- Procedures for dealing with contractors and visitors
- Welfare facility provision
- Training procedures
- Catering and food hygiene procedures
- Arrangements for consulting with employees
- Policy for driving organisation vehicles
- Smoking, drugs and alcohol policy
Remember if you have less than five employees you don’t have to write this policy down, but you still need to have it well thought out. Your policy should never be set in stone, and should be regularly updated and shared. Conduct a formal review at least every 12 months and more often if your business changes.