Does my business need a Health and Safety Policy?
As an employer you have a legal obligation (under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) to provide a safe working environment. If you employ 5 or more staff then you are also required to have a written health and safety policy and risk assessment.
Now, that may sound a little daunting but producing your own health and safety policy need not be an onerous task. Besides, by addressing health and safety issues you may also make your business more productive and a better place to work.
A health and safety policy is a document containing information about how you will manage health and safety in your business, who will be responsible for the various aspects and what actions will be taken. In the simplest case, all the necessary information could fit on one side of an A4 sheet of paper but it isn’t just a box-ticking exercise: you do need to actually think about the health and safety in your workplace before you can create a useful policy document.
Consult with your employees before drafting your health and safety policy. They are often the best people to understand risks in the workplace and involving them in making decisions shows them that you take their health and safety seriously. The consultation doesn’t need to be complicated. You can do it by listening and talking to them about:
- health and safety and the work they do
- how risks are controlled
- the best ways of providing information and training.
You, as the employer, have overall and final responsibility for health and safety in the workplace but you can appoint individuals to take responsibility for various aspects such as: health and safety training, first aid, emergency procedures, control and use of substances, accident investigation procedures. Within your health and safety policy you should identify who is responsible for each aspect of health and safety and the tasks they are responsible for e.g. carrying out risk assessments, providing training, regularly testing evacuation plans. You also need to state where the first aid box and accident log can be found and where the health and safety poster is displayed. Finally, you need to say who will review the policy and how often.
Once you’ve drafted your health and safety policy you then need to ensure that the policies and practices you have stated are implemented, regularly reviewed and kept up-to-date. Like many other aspect of managing a business, it is an on-going process.
If you need more information then you may find the Health and safety made simple section at the Health and Safety Executive website helpful. We also offer a health and safety policy template to guide you when you’re ready to write your policy.
If you don’t feel confident in drafting your own health and safety policy, or you have particularly technical requirements, then you may wish to consider engaging the services of a professional health and safety consultant.