A common question asked of health and safety consultants is when or why do I have to have a health and safety policy?

The simple answer is if you have five or more employees you must have a written health and safety policy to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Even simpler, it’s the law.

So there is a legal requirement but the real issue is one of need, a business  actually needs a health and safety policy to function correctly, there are benefits to having one. Health and safety should be integrated into business activity and without a suitable policy it is impossible to consistently communicate the organisations commitment to safety and it’s procedures to staff.

A Health and Safety policy document normally consists of four sections, a policy statement, the organisation structure, responsibilities of staff and the arrangements for complying with the policy.

The statement is a commitment on behalf of the company and it’s directors to ensure the safety of it’s employees. The structure and responsibilities of staff describe who is responsible for implementation including individual responsibilities.

The arrangements in the final section of a policy describe to staff how to comply with health and safety requirements, both legal compliance and company procedures. This section is particularly focused on risk assessment and the resulting precautions to take to adequately control hazards and protect employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations are specific that all work activity should be assessed and safe working procedures developed & communicated to staff, i.e. training.

Health and Safety is a core line management function of a business and it is a process, a system. Having a policy and written risk assessments whist being legal requirements are not ends in themselves, they are simply part of the process in communicating to employees how to work safely.

Having developed the policy, identified hazards and carried out risk assessments, what then? Communication to staff and training are critical, the workplace precautions developed from the risk assessments must consistently be communicated to all relevant staff including keeping records of any training.

Once the procedures have been adopted as correct working practice in the organisation monitoring is essential. Monitoring can be formal pro-active inspections complete with records of compliance and any corrective actions required. Just as important are informal observations by managers and supervisors as they carry out their normal duties. If they see employees not following procedure it is critical that on every occasion this is addressed, with corrective action taken and recorded.

The process is completed by taking feedback from monitoring, accidents, employee consultation, clients etc. and combining them in a management review that will result in revisions to policy, procedures, identification of additional training needs etc.

Monitoring compliance and revising procedures in the workplace completes the loop, a process of continuous improvement.

The case for needing a health and safety policy is simple. The policy is the framework to structure a process of identifying hazards in the workplace, assessing risk, developing workplace procedures and monitoring compliance on an ongoing basis. This will not only ensure the safest possible working environment it will also ensure you comply with the law.

IHS are able to assess your needs in terms of health and safety and assist in the production and implementation of policies and procedures.













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