My colleague, Poppy Prior, recently wrote a blog for new businesses on when they need to report health & safety incidents. Following on from that, I thought it might be useful to look at health & safety policies. The short answer to the question why have one is; – because it is a requirement for all businesses under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. However, that response would overlook the fact that there are other, very good, reasons for having a Health and Safety policy.

What is a health and safety policy?

In general a health and safety policy will set out the what, who and how of a health and safety regime. The policy should not be a bland and unmeasurable statement of intent; instead it should be a practical document which guides the business and allows it to appropriately manage its health and safety risks.

How do we draft one?

The process of drafting a policy requires businesses to look across their operation as a whole and to carefully consider what needs to be done. The process will involve the following;

  1. Identifying the main hazards posed by the business and who is likely to be affected by those.
  2. Specifying who will have responsibility for managing those risks. This may be divided, for example, among geographical locations or business areas.
  3. Setting out the practical means by which the risks identified at stage one will be managed.

You may want to involve a health & safety advisor with specific knowledge of your industry.

What do we do with our policy once it is complete?

The policy should be given to the business’s employees and others who may be at risk because of its operations. The policy should be used to identify the risk assessments which are required across the business and should be used as a reference point to assess how well the business is managing its health and safety risks.

It is crucial, though, to make sure that your policy is reviewed annually to ensure it is still fit purpose. As your new business changes and, hopefully, grows, you will need to adapt your health and safety policy accordingly.

In summary

A good, well thought out and relevant health and safety policy is essential to a business successfully managing the health and safety risks it poses. The process of creating the policy provides a business with the insight and the framework necessary for it to manage its health and safety risks. The resulting document ensures that the framework set down is disseminated and acted upon, it allows those involved to understand what is happening and why.