What is a Health & Safety Policy and how do I write one?

If your business employs 5 or more people, this includes Directors and part time staff, it is a legal requirement to have a Health & Safety Policy in writing.

You need to do this to inform people about how you intend to deal with health and safety issues that affect what you do and how you carry out your works. It is there to show your commitment to health and safety and to identify who has what responsibilities within your business.

What do I have to do?

First of all it must not be complicated; a long document doesn’t make it a good document!

You need to identify who has what responsibility, in a small business that might be just one person, but if, for example, someone in your business writes the risk assessments and method statements, and someone else checks the equipment that you use, you should identify those individuals and write down what they are responsible for. Don’t forget to tell them!

What should my Policy contain?

Firstly it should have a Policy Statement, this is sometimes called your general statement of intent. This sets out how you intend to manage the health and safety aspects of your business. It will say how you will tell people about the Policy, your Safety aims and goals, and commit you to ensuring the health safety and welfare of your employees, contractors and those affected by your work. By law it must be signed by the Director in charge of Health and Safety, which in a smaller company is almost always the Managing Director. Your policy should carry a signature from the last 12 months, this means that you policy should be reviewed annually at the very maximum.

The next stage is to identify the roles and responsibilities within the business. Again this could be just one person or it could be several people who are identified to carry out specific tasks. It should also identify that every individual has a responsibility under health and safety legislation. The most popular way to do this is with an organisational chart, showing the hierarchy of seniority within your organisation and identifying named persons and their job titles, as well as their role to play in health and safety. In a smaller organisation this may not be necessary, a simple list would suffice if there are very few levels of management or control.

The final stage of writing your Policy is to identify the arrangements that you have in place for managing different aspects that affect those who either carry out work or who may be affected by the work being done. This will be the largest section of your Health and Safety policy. The arrangements give information to your people about how you manage that particular aspect. Each element should have its own heading such as PAT Testing, under that heading you will state what you do to manage the risks associated with the use of electrical equipment, who, or the position within the company, is responsible for making sure that it takes place. The arrangements will vary dependent on the type of work that you generally undertake. Some examples of arrangements might be;

  • Welfare when on site
  • Risk Assessment procedures
  • First Aid procedures
  • Driving company vehicles
  • Drug and alcohol policy
  • COSHH procedures

Depending on the size of your organisation this list can be very long, and you may find that you add to it over time.

So I’ve written it – what should I do now?

Firstly it should be signed and dated by the MD or most senior person in the business, don’t forget the buck stops with you!

The Policy must be brought to the attention of those who might be affected by it. Your employees, sub contractors and sometimes people who you are working for. If you have delegated responsibility for certain things within your Policy don’t forget to make sure that those people are aware of what they are responsible for. It can be a good idea to give a copy to all new starters and to put a copy on the notice board.

You must review the Policy at least annually or more often if something changes that could affect people.

Don’t forget – this is a legal document, only include things that you will actually do. For example don’t say you will carry out monthly inspections if you only do them every 3 months; if something goes wrong and an HSE inspector looks at your policy and asks to see the monthly inspection reports you will raise their suspicions about other things that you ‘haven’t done’.

Remember - writing a Health & Safety Policy shouldn’t be difficult; it should simply reflect what you do and how you manage it.

For more assistance creating your Health and Safety policy please call us on 0114 2444461, or use the links on the left hand side of this page to download one our example documents.

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