Health and Safety Policy & Procedures Template - A Comprehensive Guide to Drafting Yours 

Published:

Nov 30, 2022

Creating a good health and safety policy is not just about compliance; it is about establishing a culture of safety, well-being, and responsibility within your organisation.

So whether you are a small business or a large corporation, the health and safety of your employees should always be a top priority.

That is why we have put this guide together to help you develop an effective health and safety policy that supports your team's well-being and improves your understanding.

Benefits of a Health & Safety Policy

✅A health and safety policy that is effectively communicated and enforced can significantly lower the number of workplace accidents and illnesses, leading to a healthier workforce.

✅ Employees who feel safe at work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher morale and motivation. This can result in improved productivity and quality of work.

✅ Adhering to a health and safety policy helps ensure that your company complies with local and national regulations, avoiding legal penalties and fines.

✅When employees feel their health and safety are priorities, they are more likely to remain loyal to your company, reducing your staff turnover and the costs associated with recruiting and training new staff.

✅ It enables better identification, assessment, and management of workplace hazards, minimising risks to your employees and the business.

Table of Contents

  • How to Draft a Health and Safety Policy?

  • Best Practices for a Health & Safety Policy

  • How Long Should a Health and Safety Policy Be?

  • Health and Safety Policy and Procedures Template Core Components

  • What are the Common Pitfalls of a Health & Safety Policy?

  • When & Why Should a Health and Safety Policy be Reviewed

  • Health and Safety Policy for Remote Workers

  • Health and Safety Policy for Large Businesses & Enterprises

  • Health and Safety Policy for Small Businesses

  • Health and Safety Policy as per Factories

  • Health and Safety Policy for a Care Home

  • Health and Safety Policy for Voluntary Organisations & Charities

  • Health and Safety Policy for a Construction Company

  • Health and Safety Policy for Sole Trader

  • Health and Safety Policy for Schools & Care Providers

  • Where is the Work Health and Safety Policy (WHS) Kept & Made Available?

  • What is the Difference Between a Health and Safety Policy vs a Health and Safety Programme?

  • Health and Safety Policy or Statement - How Do These Differ?

  • Health and Safety Policy Final Thoughts

What is a Health & Safety Policy?

A health and safety policy sets out the company's obligations and the rights and responsibilities of employees regarding health and safety. 

It should be drafted following the completion of a health & safety risk assessment.

Why is a Health & Safety Policy Important?

Employers have various legal duties regarding the health and safety of their employees, contractors, and members of the public.

Employ More Than 5 People?

Suppose an employer employs 5 people or more. In that case, under the UK laws and regulations, for instance, it must have a written statement setting out its general health and safety policy with respect to its employees and organisation (a health and safety policy statement) and the arrangements for carrying out the policy.

Written Statement

An employer also must bring the written statement to the attention of all its employees. Having a written policy like this ensures that both the employer and its staff are clear about their responsibilities, so it is also good practice for employers with fewer than 5 staff to have one.

Breach of a Health & Safety Policy

It is also essential to make clear that any breach of the health & safety policy would be treated as misconduct under the company’s disciplinary procedure.

How to Draft a Health and Safety Policy?

A health and safety policy outlines your organisation's approach to preventing accidents and health issues in the workplace. 

This makes it a living document that should evolve as your company grows and new health and safety issues arise. 

At its core, the policy should reflect your commitment to protecting your employees, customers, and anyone else affected by your company's operations.

Step 1: Assess Your Needs & Consider Hiring a Health & Safety Professional

The first step should always begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment of your workplace to identify potential hazards. 

This includes everything from physical hazards, such as machinery or toxic substances, to ergonomic risks related to posture and repetitive motion. 

Understanding these risks is the foundation of your health and safety policy.

Consequently, this is where a qualified Health and Safety Advisor would come in, as they will be able to identify more risks than you would be aware of yourself. So, it is always best practice at this stage to consult with a qualified professional to make sure all risks are covered comprehensively.

Step 2: Engage Your Team

Involving your employees in the development of your health and safety policy plays a crucial part.

Involving them in the process can help ensure they are also more committed to following the policy and contributing to a safer workplace.

Step 3: Define Roles and Responsibilities

Your policy should clearly outline the health and safety responsibilities of everyone in the organisation, from senior management to the newest employee. 

Clarifying these roles ensures that everyone knows what is expected of them and how they contribute to maintaining a safe working environment.

Step 4: Develop Procedures and Protocols

Based on the risks you and your advisor have identified, develop specific procedures and protocols to mitigate these risks.

This could include safety procedures for operating machinery, emergency response plans, or guidelines for reporting accidents and near-misses.

A trained advisor should also thoroughly vet this stage to ensure the processes are in good standing.

Step 5: Training and Communication

Practical training and communication are then vital components of any health and safety policy. 

This step should ensure that all your employees are trained on the policy, understand its importance, and know how to apply safety procedures in their daily work. 

This then leads to regular review and communication of any updates to the policy section.

Step 6: Monitor, Review, and Update

A health and safety policy should be treated as a dynamic document that adapts to changes in your workplace. 

Regularly monitoring its effectiveness, reviewing it at least annually, and making updates as necessary are a must.

This not only ensures compliance with current regulations but also simultaneously promotes continuous improvement in your company.

Best Practices for a Health & Safety Policy

When it comes to best practices for your Health & Safety Policy, several of the top ones should consist of the following:

Commitment from the Top

For a health and safety policy to be effective, it needs strong, visible support from senior management.

Clear and Accessible

Make sure your policy is easy to understand and accessible to all employees - the simpler, the better.

Proactive Approach

Look to have a high focus on preventing accidents and health issues before they occur in the workplace.

Continuous Learning & Improvements

Encourage reporting of all accidents and near-misses and use them as learning opportunities to prevent future incidents from occurring.

How Long Should a Health and Safety Policy Be?

The length of a Health and Safety Policy can vary significantly depending on an organisation's size and complexity, the industry in which it operates, and the specific risks associated with its activities. 

Generally, there is no rule dictating how long it should be. Still, a health and safety policy should be comprehensive enough to cover all relevant aspects of health and safety within the organisation and concise enough to be accessible and understandable to all employees.

Please see our Pitfalls section later on in this guide as well.

Health and Safety Policy and Procedures Template Core Components

As you can see, a health and safety policy is a vital document for any organisation. It outlines your approach and commitment to managing health and safety in your workplace.

Health & Safety policies can vary greatly, however, several standard components can be structured around:

Statement of Intent

A Statement of Intent component tends to be focused around:

Purpose and Commitment

This part declares your organisation's commitment to health and safety, emphasising its importance alongside productivity and financial performance. 

It should, for instance, reflect your organisation's intention to protect the well-being of all your employees and anyone affected by its operations.

Goals and Objectives

Outline specific health and safety objectives, including preventing accidents, injuries, and health issues in the first place.

It may also set forth goals for continuous improvement, for example.

Legal Obligations

A declaration that the organisation will meet, if not ideally exceed, legal requirements related to health and safety applicable within its jurisdiction.

Responsibilities

Responsibility components cover who is responsible for health and safety in the workforce.

For instance:

Overall Responsibility

An overall section can identify who has ultimate responsibility for health and safety within your organisation - typically a senior executive or the employer, for instance.

Specific Responsibilities

It can also detail the health and safety responsibilities of different levels within the organisation, from management to individual employees.

This can, for instance, include responsibilities for reporting hazards, accident investigation, and emergency response, to name but a few.

Contractors and Visitors

A contractors and visitors section can also outline the health and safety responsibilities of non-employees, including contractors and visitors.

Arrangements

Arrangement components tend to discuss the processes for what will tend to happen to be able to carry out this policy. 

For example, it could include components based on the following:

Risk Assessments

This predominantly describes the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling risks in the workplace.

Training and Competency

Outlines the arrangements for health and safety training for employees, ensuring they are competent to carry out their tasks safely.

Communication and Consultation

Details how health and safety information will be communicated within the organisation and how your employees will be consulted on matters affecting their health and safety.

Emergency Procedures

Includes details and plans for evacuation in case of fire or other emergencies, first aid arrangements, and reporting accidents.

Monitoring and Review

This component could, for instance, describe the methods for monitoring compliance with health and safety policies, conducting inspections and audits, and reviewing the policy regularly to ensure it remains effective and relevant.

Implementation and Review

Once you have a well-written and vetted health and safety policy that is legally sound and accurate to your workplace, it should be signed and dated by the highest level of management, which helps to showcase commitment from the top. 

It must also be communicated to all your employees and stakeholders, and it should be reviewed and updated regularly - especially when there are significant changes in the organisation or its operations.

This template provides a solid foundation framework for developing a health and safety policy tailored to the specific needs and risks of an organisation.

What are the Common Pitfalls of a Health & Safety Policy?

Not having a Health and Safety Policy can bring with it many pitfalls, with some of these being:

Not having a Health & Safety Policy

Employers have various legal duties regarding the health and safety of their employees, contractors, and members of the public.

These, for instance, are covered by their own bodies, such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the US, and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in the EU.

For instance, if an employer employs 5 people or more, it must have a written statement setting out its general health and safety policy with respect to its employees and organisation (a health and safety policy statement) and the arrangements for carrying out the policy in the UK by law.

Written Statement Attention to All Employees

An employer also must bring the written statement to the attention of all its employees. 

Having a written policy like this ensures that both you - the employer - and your staff are clear about their responsibilities. It is also a good practice for employers in the UK, for example, with fewer than 5 staff, to have one.

Not Tailoring the Policy to Your Organisation

There is no way to get a one-size-fully completed policy that fits organisations as a copy-and-paste template, as the risks in every workforce differ tremendously. 

Consequently, employers should carry out detailed risk assessments by trained advisors or consultants, which should then feed into the health and safety policy to ensure that it reflects the nature of your individual workplace, the industry in which your company operates, and the outcome of your employer's risk assessments.

Having a Contractual Health & Safety Policy

The employment contract contains the terms and conditions that govern an employee’s employment.

Generally, changes can only be made with the consent of both parties. 

Change Policies Frequently

Normally, as an employer, you will want to make changes to your policies and procedures regularly. In certain situations, you may not want to be tied to following them to the letter, especially as your business grows and develops.

Non-contractual

For these reasons, it is usually advisable for the health and safety policy to be non-contractual, so that it does not form part of the employment contract and can be easily changed to accommodate shifting parts of the business.

Otherwise, it will need to obtain staff agreement to any changes, however small.

The health and safety policy should, therefore, clearly state that it is not contractual, i.e., that it does not form part of the employment contract.

Including too much legalese and detail

The best policies are clear, concise and easy to navigate and understand. 

Policies that are long, unwieldy and full of jargon are unlikely to be used or understood.

Not keeping the Health & Safety Policy up to date

Employment law, especially in places such as in the UK, changes frequently. 

When & Why Should a Health and Safety Policy be Reviewed

A health and safety policy should be reviewed regularly - at least annually - to ensure it remains effective and compliant with current legislation and any changes that may have occurred in your workplace.

Significant Changes Within the Organisation

It should also be revisited whenever significant changes within the organisation, such as new processes, equipment, or substances introduced, could introduce new hazards.

Necessary After an Incident or Near Miss

Additionally, a review is necessary after an incident or near-miss, to incorporate lessons learned and prevent future occurrences. 

Any Changes in Health and Safety Laws or Guidance

Any changes in health and safety laws or guidance from relevant authorities also necessitate a policy update to maintain legal compliance. 

Consequently, regular reviews help in adapting to evolving workplace environments, ensuring the safety and well-being of all employees.

What Are Different Types of Health and Safety Policies

Health and Safety isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, and consequently, it can be very adaptable to varying industries. 

For instance, a non-exhaustive list of some of the varying types of Health & Safety Policies is based around:

  • Remote workers

  • Large businesses & enterprises

  • Small business

  • Factories

  • Care homes

  • Voluntary organisations & charities

  • Construction Company

  • Sole trader

  • Schools & care providers

Health and Safety Policy for Remote Workers

Remote work policies, for instance, uniquely address the ergonomic, mental health, and digital security aspects of working outside traditional office environments. 

How Can These Differ?

As a result, they tailor safety guidelines to home offices, emphasising the importance of regular breaks and safe home office setups. They can even cover cybersecurity measures to protect their personal and company data.

Health and Safety Policy for Large Businesses & Enterprises

For large businesses and enterprises, this will focus more on developing comprehensive health and safety policies that integrate across multiple departments, facilities, workplaces, and even countries. 

How Can These Differ?

These policies uniquely address the complexity of managing diverse operational risks, ensuring consistency in safety standards throughout the organisation while accommodating all local regulations.

They also tend to focus on systematic risk management, extensive employee training programs, and very robust incident reporting systems to foster a culture of safety. The scale of these organisations can also necessitate a higher level of detail in emergency preparedness plans.

For instance, this could need to include coordination with external emergency services and contingency planning for a wide array of potential incidents that may not affect other types of businesses and organisations.

Health and Safety Policy for Small Businesses

For small businesses, their policies can focus more on scalability and flexibility, catering more to limited resources while maintaining compliance with legal standards.

How Can These Differ?

They can, for instance, prioritise critical risks specific to the business's operations, offering practical, cost-effective solutions that can be implemented in accordance with the law without extensive infrastructure.

Health and Safety Policy as per Factories

Factory-specific policies can be more detailed in addressing the myriad risks in manufacturing environments, including machinery operation, chemical handling, and noise exposure, to name only a few.

How Can These Differ?

These policies will emphasise more preventive measures, emergency preparedness, and worker training tailored to the specific types of hazards present in industrial settings.

Health and Safety Policy for a Care Home

Care home policies uniquely cover the safety of both residents and staff, focusing on infection control, manual patient handling, and the safe administration of medications by trained staff, for instance. 

How Can These Differ?

They also address emergency evacuation procedures tailored for individuals with limited mobility or even cognitive impairments and disabilities.

Health and Safety Policy for Voluntary Organisations & Charities

When it comes to a policy template for Voluntary Organisations, these will offer a flexible framework for volunteer-driven entities, emphasising risk assessments tailored to diverse volunteer activities and settings. 

How Can These Differ?

Crafted more for non-profits and volunteer-run entities, this policy is unique in its consideration of the diverse range of activities and the fluctuating varying workforce. 

For instance, it can look more to prioritise more inclusive training and frequent awareness-raising on safety issues, recognising the varied experience levels of the volunteers and that they may need to have more of an inconsistent members / workforce as some other types of organisations will have.

Health and Safety Policy for a Construction Company

Construction company policies are also uniquely comprehensive, addressing the wide range of risks in construction sites that wouldn't be the same for many other business types—from fall hazards and heavy machinery operation to electrical safety and exposure to hazardous materials and more, all need to be factored in here. 

How Can These Differ?

They prioritise site-specific risk assessments, ongoing safety training, and strict adherence to protective equipment use.

Health and Safety Policy for Sole Trader

Sole trader policies uniquely focus on the individual, highlighting self-regulation and personal responsibility in maintaining safety standards. 

How Can These Differ?

This type can cover more of the practical aspects of conducting risk assessments, implementing safety measures, and staying updated on legal obligations without the support of a larger organisational structure.

Health and Safety Policy for Schools & Care Providers

When it comes to School policies these will more uniquely address the safety of children and young people.

How Can These Differ?

Consequently, they can incorporate more aspects like classroom safety, playground supervision, and emergency procedures for any necessary lockdowns or care place evacuations. 

Where is the Work Health and Safety Policy (WHS) Kept & Made Available?

The location and availability of a Work Health and Safety (WHS) policy can depend on the specific organisation and country's regulations. 

For instance, in the UK, specific regulations under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, along with guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), outline the necessity for employers to provide clear and accessible information on health and safety, including the WHS policy.

As an employer, for instance, you must ensure that your policy is easily accessible to all employees and relevant parties.

Generally, here are some of the most common places and ways an organisation might keep and make its WHS policy available to its employees:

Internal Company Website or Intranet

Many organisations can store their WHS policy on their internal website or intranet, which employees can access anytime.

This is one of the most common methods of making the policy readily available to all staff members when they need it.

Physical Locations within the Workplace

A printed copy of the WHS policy may be displayed in common areas within the workplace, such as break rooms, staff rooms, notice boards, or even near main entrances.

This ensures that your employees and visitors can easily see and read the policy.

Employee Handbook

The WHS policy or a summary of it might be included in the employee handbook that is given to all new hires and employees.

This handbook is often made available electronically as well.

Training Sessions

The WHS policy is often reviewed during orientation or regular safety training sessions, and employees are reminded where they can find it for future reference.

Safety Meetings

Regular safety meetings or briefings can be venues for discussing the policy, its implications, and any updates to it.

Management or HR Department 

Employees should be able to request a copy of the policy from their manager or the HR department. 

These departments should also be able to inform employees about where the policy is stored and how they can access it.

Company’s External Website

Some organisations choose to make their WHS policy publicly available on their external website. 

This can be particularly common in industries where health and safety are of significant public interest as well.

What is the Difference Between a Health and Safety Policy vs a Health and Safety Programme?

Understanding the distinction between a health and safety policy and a health and safety programme is crucial for effectively managing your workplace safety. 

Both are fundamental to establishing a safe working environment. Still, they serve very different purposes and contain very different types of information.

Health and Safety Policy

A health and safety policy is a written statement that clearly outlines how health and safety is managed within your organisation. 

Consequently, it represents the organisation's commitment to the health and safety of its employees. It is often required by law and must be accessible to all employees.

In short, this is a concise document that outlines the organisation's general approach and commitment to health and safety.

Health and Safety Programme

A health and safety program, on the other hand, is a detailed plan or system implemented to fulfil the commitments outlined in the health and safety policy. 

It comprises specific practices, procedures, and processes designed to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace.

Consequently, this is more of a detailed, action-oriented plan that specifies how the organisation will achieve the goals and commitments stated in the health and safety policy itself.

Health and Safety Policy or Statement - How Do These Differ?

When discussing workplace health and safety, the terms "health and safety policy" and "health and safety statement" are sometimes used interchangeably, but they can have very distinct meanings depending on the context and regulatory environment in which you are working.

Health and Safety Policy

For instance, a Health and Safety Policy is a comprehensive document that outlines your organisation's approach to health and safety.

It is designed to clearly communicate how health and safety matters are managed within your organisation. 

Health and Safety Statement

The term Health and Safety Statement, on the other hand, can sometimes be used to refer specifically to the "Statement of Intent" part of the health and safety policy, especially in contexts where highlighting the commitment of the organisation to health and safety is crucial.

However, in some regions or contexts, a "Health and Safety Statement" might be a simpler, less formal document that also summarises the organisation's stance and basic principles on health and safety without the detailed responsibilities or arrangements that are included in a complete policy.

Health and Safety Policy Final Thoughts

As you can see, developing a comprehensive health and safety policy is essential to creating a safe and healthy workplace. 

It is also something that should be taken seriously, and a trained Health and Safety advisor or consultant should be brought in to ensure that yours is comprehensive enough.

However, by following these steps and best practices and using a secure, legally vetted policy template, you can protect your employees, avoid legal issues, and help create a culture of safety and well-being within your organisation for years to come.

Remember, a safe workplace is a productive and happy workplace. So start taking steps today to ensure that your health and safety policy is up to the task of protecting your most valuable asset - your people.

Disclaimer:
Please note: Pocketlaw is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. So, should you have any legal questions on the content of this page, please get in touch with a qualified legal professional.

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