Health and safety should be high on employers’ list of priorities, and organisations should have health and safety policies and procedures in place. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) sets out the main legislation for employers to ensure the health and safety of employees and visitors to the workplace, including contractors, freelancers, suppliers and the public.
Official figures for workplaces in Great Britain show why health and safety policies and procedures are so important. In 2019/20, 1.6m people suffered from a work-related illness, 693,000 sustained an injury, and 111 people were killed. The impact on business productivity is extensive, with 38.8m working days lost every year due to illnesses and injuries and an estimated £16.2bn in business costs.
Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare and others affected by the organisation’s undertakings and operations. A key part of that is writing a health and safety policy that helps develop a compliance management system.
Our Managing safely training course helps you understand your responsibilities under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) and explains what is required in creating and implementing health and safety policies and procedures in your workplace.
What is a health and safety policy?
All organisations are legally required to have a health and safety policy, and all employers need to understand what it is and what their responsibilities are.
The policy outlines how your organisation will comply with the law and how your organisation’s health and safety policies and procedures prevent employees and others from suffering harm in the workplace. A health and safety policy helps promote safe working practices by outlining who does what, when and how. All managers and employees should understand their responsibilities and follow the policy and procedures.
Organisations with five or more employees must have a written policy. Even organisations with fewer than five employees need a policy, but it doesn’t need to be written down – however, the Health and Safety Executive says that it is useful to do so and, in our opinion, it helps with compliance and understanding.
Writing a health and safety policy
A health and safety policy should include three sections:
- Statement of intent
- Organisational responsibilities for health and safety
- Arrangements for health and safety which should also include fire safety
The Health and Safety Executive has a health and safety policy template you can download and use.
The following advice outlines what to include in each section of your policy.
Statement of intent
This section outlines your general approach to health and safety at work and how you will establish a management system, meet the legal requirements and set objectives and targets to measure performance. It should state that you will provide a safe place of work with safe systems and conditions, and you have procedures in place to prevent and control accidents and incidents.
The statement should recognise that the organisation has duties to others and that it will put systems in place to ensure compliance and performance is measured and action is taken to improve and update the management system.
You should state that you will consult with employees and provide them with necessary health and safety information and training, ensure competence including helping managers understand their responsibilities and duties for managing safety.
Responsibilities for health and safety
In this section of your health and safety policy, you should list the names and roles of people with specific responsibilities for health and safety. That includes who has overall and final responsibility for health and safety and has day-to-day responsibility for ensuring the policy is put into practice.
It should also state the people who have a responsibility in specific areas. This includes those looking after risk assessments, first aid, fire safety and evacuation, maintaining plant and equipment, training, competence levels, inspections and audits.
The people named in your policy can be those employed by the organisation and external people such as contractors, consultants and advisers.
Finally, this section of the policy should state employees’ responsibilities, including cooperating with supervisors and managers, taking care of their health and safety and reporting accidents, incidents or any health and safety concerns to appropriate people within the organisation.
Arrangements for health and safety
This section is where you should outline the specific health and safety policies and procedures you have in place for preventing and controlling the risks to employees and others affected by your organisation.
Each section should have a separate heading with details of the particular arrangements and who is responsible for making sure the arrangements are carried out.
Sections should include:
- Risk assessments – Detail how and when you will carry out general health and safety risk assessments, as well as for specific areas such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), workstation assessments, manual handling, electrical safety and fire safety. Include details on when the organisation will review risk assessments.
- Information provision – Outline how you will provide general health and safety information, supervision and training as well as training related to specific tasks such as working at height and working with asbestos.
- Consultation – Explain how you will consult with employees on health and safety matters when they occur and communicate when health and safety policies and procedures are reviewed or changed.
- Emergency procedures – Outline your emergency evacuation procedures. This includes having clearly defined and well-maintained escape routes, how fire doors should be used and how evacuation procedures and systems such as fire alarms will be regularly tested and repaired if necessary.
- Incident reporting – Detail how accidents, incidents and illnesses will be reported and investigated within your organisation. The policy should also state how you will comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
- Audit and inspections – How compliance with the arrangements will be checked and the findings brought to the attention of those responsible and the recommendations actioned. You should also outline the first aid procedures you have in place for responding to accidents, illnesses and incidents.
Other areas that can be included in your arrangements for health and safety are:
- Workstations assessments.
- Display screen use and ergonomics.
- Drugs, smoking and alcohol policies.
- Provision of welfare facilities.
- Food hygiene procedures.
- Testing and maintenance of electrical equipment.
- Testing and maintenance of machinery.
- Procedures for ensuring the health and safety of visitors, contractors and the public.
Your policy should be reviewed as often as is appropriate. A policy and arrangements may need to be reviewed and revised when new hazards are introduced to the workplace, such as new equipment being used or personnel changes. A revision may also be necessary if new regulations come into force, an incident or ill health is reported or detected following an audit.
Communicating health and safety policies and procedures
You must communicate your health and safety policy to managers and employees.
When a new employee joins the organisation or changes their role, employers should tell them about the policy during their induction training or onboarding to a new position. Employers should also reiterate the policy during top-up or refresher training.
When health and safety policies are reviewed, or changes are made, employees must be consulted and informed. In a small business, you’re likely to communicate directly with employees, but for large organisations, consultation may be more effective through a health and safety representative or representative of employee safety in non-unionised organisations.
Our IOSH Approved training courses include our Health and Safety Awareness Course and Health and Safety Induction training so you can help protect employees in the workplace and help meet your compliance needs.