health & safety

how to create and implement your own health & safety policy

You must have a health and safety policy. If you have five or more employees it must be a written document. Written or not, the same principles apply and you have to show your commitment to manage risks and meet legal duties. This article explains how to draw up a good policy and what to put in it.

before you start your policy

Your health and safety policy will be unique to your business, so think about any issues your business faces. For example, do you use machinery, deal with food or use hazardous materials? You might want to appoint a “competent person” to help you. You can also get advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Trade associations may also help and support you.

All businesses must carry out a risk assessment, and you must show how you will control those identified risks. Your health and safety policy must record the significant findings of the risk assessment and any group of employees identified as being especially at risk. The policy will be specific to your company and should be clear about who does what, and when and how they do it. It should influence everything you do in business, including the selection of people, equipment and materials, the way work is done and how you design goods and services. You can download a free guide from Health & Safety Executive www.hse.gov.uk to record your significant findings.

what should be in your policy?

Ideally it should have three parts:

statement of intent (sets out your commitment and what you want to achieve)

This can be one page and has to be signed and dated by the most senior person in the business. It should state:

  • that you are committed to ensuring the health and safety of your employees, customers etc
  • who has ultimate responsibility
  • who has special responsibilities
  • what arrangements will be made to support the policy
  • that all employees are responsible for taking care of their own health and safety and that of the people they work with
  • that you recognise your legal duties and will provide a safe work environment, with safe equipment and safe methods of work
organisation (who is responsible for what)

This identifies who will undertake risk assessments, make inspections and ensure safety. Larger businesses may need diagrams or charts to show responsibilities of managers, supervisors and employees. The duties of the competent person should be mentioned here. Include the name of the first aid officer(s), fire officers and anyone else who has designated responsibilities for any health and safety issues.

arrangements (details of what you will do in practice and how you will eliminate or reduce risks)

These will be highlighted in your risk assessment. You must explicitly show you have assessed the risks and made proper checks. You must also show you have asked and considered who might be affected by any risks.

Next, you must illustrate how you have dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taken into account the number of people who could be involved, and that the precautions are reasonable and the remaining risk is low. To keep things simple you can refer to other documents, such as manuals and company rules, which may already list hazards and precautions. It is up to you whether you combine all the documents or keep them separately.

Specific tasks can be delegated and the names and exact responsibility undertaken should be recorded (for example, a named first aid officer, the name of the person in charge of maintaining equipment etc). Safe handling and disposal of waste and packaging must also be outlined. Your company should identify when and where induction training on health and safety will be provided, plus specific jobs requiring training.

Of course accidents happen. First aid and work-related ill health must be recorded, as well as the location of the first aid box (and who the appointed first aider is). There should be space to record accidents and cases of work-related ill health in an accident book.

Also consider emergency procedures, how often they are checked and who is responsible for them. Your premises must meet certain fire-safety standards. You need to consider escape routes to safety, fire-resistant doors, fire fighting equipment and fire alarms.

The information you provide as a result of your risk assessment should be pitched appropriately for your employees, so you must take into consideration the level of training, knowledge and experience. The information must be able to be clearly understood by everyone.

is your policy effective?

The health and safety policy shows everyone that you have identified hazards and assessed risks, and have eliminated and controlled them as far as possible. You should discuss and review the policy with employees or their representatives for health and safety. Set a review date so you can reassess your risk from time to time. Risks change, e.g. you may bring in new machines and procedures which could lead to new hazards. Do not amend your assessment for every trivial change, but be aware of any significant new hazards and be prepared to make changes where necessary.

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