The Importance of a Clear Health and Safety Policy

A health and safety policy will set down in writing who exactly is responsible for what, when and how with regards to health and safety issues within your organisation. It should contain the aims of the business, as well as measurable objectives. It should be written in clear and simple language so that it can be understood by everyone. In the UK, it is compulsory to have a written health and safety policy if you have five or more employees.

When writing a health and safety policy, a comprehensive risk assessment should be performed to identify potential hazards that may be encountered. Although it is impossible to identify and take precautions against every potential hazard, the risk assessment should highlight the most likely and the most serious. This will enable the company to implement working practices and control procedures, as well as providing any necessary safety equipment, to prevent an accident occurring rather then reacting after it has already taken place. In a particularly large workplace, a number of health and safety policies may be needed that cover different areas, rather than putting them all into one long document which is so lengthy that it means nobody will even attempt to read it all.

The health and safety policy ensures that adequate resources can be allocated to where they are needed in order to manage health and safety effectively. It also should flag up where additional resources (e.g. spending, personnel etc) are required.

Putting in place measures to prevent accidents in the workplace is of benefit to all concerned. For an individual, it reduces the chance of them suffering a painful or disfiguring injury or illness, or even death. From an employer’s point of view, there are financial implications should accidents occur in the workplace. They may be fined by regulators for failing to comply with legislation, or sued for compensation by the person(s) who suffered in the accident. Having employees off work through illness or injury leads to a reduction in output and ultimately, lost revenue. If the company wants to maintain the existing level of output, it will either have to get remaining employees to work even harder (which may damage morale), or hire in temporary workers to cover for those absent. It is likely that more than one person may be needed to produce the same as the existing worker, as the temporary one will take time to get up-to-speed with the role and what is required. There may also be additional costs incurred to recruit them too.

In order to be effective, a health and safety policy must be regularly reviewed and amended to incorporate changes in the activities of the business. An out of date policy that talks about activities or equipment that is no longer being used is of no use to anyone, and in certain cases may even make the consequences of an accident worse if it causes confusion or leaves tasks to people who have left the business, meaning that they don’t get done (e.g. fire sweeping during an emergency evacuation).