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Health and Safety

How to write a health and safety policy

Luke Pitt - Last Update: 15 May 2020

Contents

Do you need a health and safety policy?

What should be in your health and safety policy?

Health and safety policy template

Who should write the health and safety policy?

What happens if you don’t have a health and safety policy?

 

luke pitt.jpg (1)
Luke Pitt

Luke is TSW's Head of Health and Safety. 

He has two fellowships with the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management and the Royal Society for Public Health.

Your workplace health and safety policy describes how you'll manage health and safety procedures. Follow our health and safety policy template to write your statement of intent, organisational chart and agreements.

Key points

  • Every business with five or more employees needs a health and safety policy statement
  • Your policy and procedures detailed within are unique to your business. The best person to write your health and safety policy is someone who knows the inner workings and challenges of the business
  • Use our template to write your health and safety policy

Do you need a health and safety policy?

Lawfully, if you employ five or more people you must have a written health and safety policy statement.

But if you have fewer than five employees, it's nice to have and will help you keep everyone safe, but it's not required.

What should be in your health and safety policy?

Disposable PPE masks

The HSE says that:

“A health and safety policy sets out your general approach to health and safety. It explains how you, as an employer, will manage health and safety in your business. It should clearly say who does what, when and how”

A policy is split into three parts namely:

  • Statement of intent
  • the organisational chart (or responsibility section)
  • The arrangements

What is a health and safety policy statement?

Your statement of intent clarifies to the staff and any interested party what the company’s commitment and philosophies are to managing health and safety, and what the company strives to achieve.

It's usually the first document you give to your clients - it's your first impression, so it's important to put as much effort into it as you do all your other work.

The statement must be the guiding light which inspires both the staff to sign up to it and your clients to be inspired.

The statement of intent is a very personal document to your business so, by all means, look at how others structure their statements, but my advice? Do not copy and paste!

Read the HSE's guide to writing a statement of intent.

Health and safety policy template

Your health and safety policy will be unique to your business, but follow these instructions and you'll have a watertight and lawful health and safety policy. 

How to write the policy statement of intent

When writing your statement, state your main objectives. Follow this six-step template to start your health and safety policy. 

1. Commit to compliance with the Health Safety At Work Act 1974

2. Look at the specific duties (S2.2) as well as the general duty (S2.1) which ensures the health, safety and welfare of all employees.

3. State that legal, moral and fiscal responsibilities rank equally and no one element is any more important than the others

4. Weave into the statement that it is the responsibility of all employees to co-operate as this is a major factor to the success of health and safety and although employers have the main duties, the employees are critical to the whole process working effectively

5. Note how and what will prompt a review and how this will be monitored

6. Have the most senior person within the company sign and date so that everyone knows this has come from the top and reinforcing a company-wide commitment

Once written, you then need to make sure the staff are aware of its existence and where to find it.

You will want to have copies up on noticeboards and discussed in meetings and inductions for new employees.

The statement of intent is a living document and will require reviews and changes to remain relevant.

Building the organisation chart

The organisation chart is the family tree that visually describes who has responsibility for health and safety within your company.

Mention the names of individuals with these responsibilities as this does prove successful when it comes to signing up to specific responsibilities and people tend to take it more seriously.

Some companies prefer to add their job titles as part of their succession plan - responsibility will always fall to that job role regardless of who holds it. That’s fine too, but it shouldn't mean you don't review the organisation chart regularly to make sure it's relevant.

There are thousands of examples of charts, some with photographs of individuals which are particularly successful, but at the end of the day, simply reflecting who does what and reflecting the company hierarchy is very much the idea of this second part of the policy document.

Arrangements section

The HSE state that this section tells the reader how you are going to meet the commitments you made in your opening statement of intent.

You don’t have to follow the law if you can prove you do more than the law requires. That means that your initial statement is crucial to get right as it will affect the arrangements section.

Either way, this section will clarify how you intend to make it all work.

The HSE continues that this element will inform on how you are going to eliminate risks or reduce the risk of hazards in your workplace.

Risk assessments

It is a best practice that before you can create an arrangement, you will first undertake a risk assessment to find out what it is you are up against before you decide on how to control it.

Start by looking at the business as a sequence of events, for each event, you are going to need to figure out how the process or task works, a sequence if you will.

Once you have figured that out, you will see where there are potentials (risks) of a worker getting hurt (hazards) and you can put controls in place to make it safer (The risk assessment)

Once you have the risk assessment completed, then you can create an arrangement which clarifies how you are going to reduce the risks to your employees, this will bring clarity to your business as any commitments you made in your general statement will have already been factored in when deciding on safety controls and is just formalised in the arrangements. 

You must be competent in how to undertake risk assessments, so you have the experience and the qualifications to be balanced and also proportionate.

Whatever you commit to in the arrangements becomes the benchmark for any stakeholder like the HSE or your clients as this is how they measure your compliance levels and whatever you commit to is whatever you clients or the HSE will hold you to account for.

Who should write the health and safety policy?

Anyone who understands the business and has a good understanding of health and safety.

If the person who writes the policy doesn’t understand the business, the document won't be fit for purpose.

Before anyone begins work on the policy ask them four questions

  • Do you know the purpose of the business?
  • Do you know what's best for your business?
  • Do you understand the capabilities of the business?
  • Do you understand the struggles and challenges facing the business?

If they can answer 'yes' to all of the above, they're the right person to create your health and safety policy.

Your health and safety policy can help you get more business, keep you compliant, and focuses everyone's mind on the tasks in hand. It needs time, it deserves time and the benefits are quite profound.

What happens if you don’t have a health and safety policy

A group of engineers work on a machine

You are in breach of the law.

If you're scaling your business, for example, about to increase your staff from fewer than five to more, but have been working without a health and safety policy, there is a purpose and need for you to have one before you grow the business.

It’s only when things go wrong will all of a sudden all these breaches become highlighted. The HSE don’t chase you every day because that’s not their job but they will hold you to account when things go wrong. That means prosecution, fines and even imprisonment.

If this isn't enough to convince you, go right back to the foundations - your moral, legal and fiscal responsibilities.

Stop thinking that health and safety is something that you have to do. Think of it as being society's way to set parameters for all of us.

By doing the right thing, you help your business grow because you always looking at what you do, searching for opportunities to do more, earn more and as a result you are naturally keeping your staff safe.