How to create a workplace health and safety policy

Workplace health and safety policies are fundamental for protecting employees. The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) reports that in 2021, there were 8138 non-fatal workplace injuries and 38 fatalities.

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers must ensure the safety of all employees in the workplace. By law, if you employ five or more people, you must document a health and safety policy. Organisations must comply with these regulations to reduce the risk of injury and ill health.

While compliance with the law is essential, health and safety policies can also reduce the negative impacts of employee ill health on your organisation.

What to do before creating a health and safety policy

Creating a work health and safety policy is vital – and it’s important you take the right approach to ensure it is effective.

Undertaking risk assessments is the first step before creating a health and safety policy for your workplace. By carefully assessing where risks lie, you can effectively make a plan to reduce them and create a safer work environment for everyone.

Risk assessments enable you to make the necessary changes to help prevent or reduce identified risks. These assessments are also covered under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and are a legal requirement.

Risk assessments are important in order to identify potential hazards in all areas of the workplace. It is necessary to control these hazards by making reasonable adjustments to reduce the risks. The risk assessment should be reviewed on an annual basis to see if any new hazards have arisen and if the current precautions are still effective.

Risk assessments should be completed before employees start work on new areas or with new materials or equipment. They should also be conducted regularly for existing operations to keep on top of new hazards.

health and safety policy manual guide

How to create a health and safety policy

A health and safety policy has three main requirements, they are:

Statement of intent

This statement should outline your organisation’s health and safety aims and objectives. You should include how your organisation will ensure compliance and that safety is a priority, as well as the procedures in place to control and minimise the risk of accidents.

As the owner or senior person in the company, you need to sign the statement and display it so all employees can read it. Keep it clear and concise.

Responsibilities for health and safety

The health and safety policy must include a list of the people responsible for various procedures. The list should display each person’s name, role and specific health and safety responsibilities. It should also name the people/person who has the most responsibility for ensuring day-to-day safety.

Ideally, there should be responsible people across all areas of health and safety, including:

  • first aid
  • risk assessments
  • fire safety
  • equipment maintenance
  • inspections and audits.

Read our guide to the importance of occupational health and safety

Arrangements for health and safety

This section highlights the specific procedures and systems you’ll have in place for health and safety.

It should describe in detail the measures you’re taking to prevent and control risks and accidents for your employees. It should cover various arrangements and include the name of the person responsible for that area of health and safety.

Some areas to include:

  • Risk assessments – Outline how and when risk assessments will be conducted. Include risk assessments for specific areas if relevant to your organisation, such as hazardous substances, manual handling and fire safety.
  • Emergency procedures – Detail your emergency evacuation procedures. Highlight all the escape routes and explain the procedures, such as how often fire alarms will be tested and how fire doors should be used.
  • Incident reporting – Explain the reporting procedures for accidents and illnesses. First aid procedures should also be outlined.
  • Audits and inspections – Detail how the arrangements will be inspected and that regular audits will be used to investigate and check procedures.

The arrangements section of the policy should be easy to understand so employees are aware of their responsibilities and the correct processes.

Communicate and review the policy

  • Ensure that all employees in the organisation are aware of the health and safety policy.
  • Reiterate the policy for new employees joining the organisation and for refresher training.
  • Ensure you have an accessible health and safety policy manual available to all employees.
  • Review your health and safety policy at least once a year.

Health and safety policy requirements guide

The importance of an occupational health and safety management system

A more systematic approach to your health and safety management can help you manage your business more effectively.

An occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system helps to maintain consistency across operations and procedures. It can improve your organisation’s efficiency and health and safety performance. It can continuously identify hazards and control risks associated with the workplace.

Read our guide to occupational health and safety management.

Certifying your health and safety management system to ISO 45001 can improve the framework of systems. It helps to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to protecting your employee’s health and safety and ensures compliance with relevant regulations.

The standard helps to improve employee safety and creates a safer working environment. It determines the health and safety risks associated with specific activities and puts in controls to minimise them. It can also evaluate the management system’s performance and offer ways to improve it. Implementing a management system certified to ISO 45001 can help reduce operational costs and costs associated with work-related incidents and downtime.

An ISO 45001-certified management system can also improve your organisational reputation and attract new customers and contracts that may require a compliant management system as part of a contract.

You can learn more about ISO 45001 certification and occupational health and safety management systems by visiting our website.

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