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What is a Health & Safety Policy and how do I write one?

When you’re implementing the ISO 45001 Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS), the starting point is your Health & Safety Policy. It sets the agenda for everything else that follows. The main purpose of your OHSMS is to help you achieve what you set out in your Health & Safety Policy.
 
A Health & Safety Policy is a very brief statement and you should be able to complete it without any difficulty. It’s a lot easier than you probably imagine. In fact, there a ready-made templates available for which you can find a link below.

What exactly is a Health & Safety Policy?

A Health & Safety Policy (or ‘Health and Safety Policy Statement’) is the starting point for ensuring good safety performance and compliance. It’s often a written document of just a couple of pages that lets your staff and others know about your commitment to health and safety and describes how you will manage it in your business. It’s commonly developed in 3 key sections. In short, it includes:

  • A statement of intent

    • This makes clear your commitment to health and safety and outlines your broad aims and objectives. The most senior person in the company should sign it and regularly review it.

  • Responsibilities for health and safety 

    • This describes how you organise yourselves, giving the names, positions and responsibilities of those involved in upholding standards of health and safety in your organisation.

  • Arrangements for health and safety

    • This section gives details of how you will practically achieve your aims to reduce the risks posed by your individual activities. Your ISO 45001 procedures would expand on that.

Essentially, that’s all there is to it. Below, you’ll find more detail and background and links to download a template and an example Health & Safety Policy.

Do we have to have a Health & Safety Policy?

If you’re implementing ISO 45001 then there’s no question - you must have a written Health & Safety Policy (or ‘Occupational Health & Safety Policy’ as it’s called in ISO 45001) as it’s a requirement of the standard (Clause 5.2). This applies to you no matter how small or large your business is.
 
Regardless of whether you aspire to ISO 45001 certification or not, you need to be aware of the law around health and safety policies. The law is set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) 1974. The HSWA is designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees and anyone else who might be affected by your activities such as the public or other people on your premises.
 
The HSWA tells you that as an employer, if you employ five or more people it’s a legal requirement that you have a written Health & Safety Policy. This isn’t optional  - if you don’t have one, you could face a fine or even imprisonment.
 
Even if you employ fewer than five people, you are still required to have an actual policy even though you aren’t obliged to put it in writing. But it’s still good practice to write it down. As you will see below, it’s easy enough to do.
 
You must also share your policy with your employees. You could make it available for example on your noticeboard or on your company’s intranet.

How do I write a Health & Safety Policy?

For the purposes of complying with the law and the requirements of the ISO 45001 Occupational Health & Safety Management System it’s best to follow a tried and tested formula. It also makes life easier for you.
 
So, unless you have a good reason not to, you should follow the advice of the Health and Safety Executive - the government body responsible for the encouragement and enforcement of workplace health and safety.
 
They are also an excellent source of plain English advice for businesses and offer many useful resources. You can download a blank Health & Safety Policy template. There really is no need to deviate from that template but there are some specific requirements detailed within Clause 5.2 of ISO 45001 that must be included within your statement.
 
It’s always useful to see how others go about doing these things, so the HSE also provide an example of a Health & Safety Policy. It’s really useful inspiration and guidance and you can find more examples by searching online. But remember, what you produce has to be your policy for your organisation reflecting your circumstances.

What next?

Just because you have a Health & Safety Policy, it’s no guarantee of compliance and on its own will not lead to improved performance. But it is the starting point for the development of a through approach to protecting the health, safety and wellbeing or your employees and everyone affected by your organisation’s activities.  The natural endpoint is the ISO 45001 Occupational Health & Safety Management System.
 
Contact Alcumus ISOQAR to find out more about how you can implement this international standard.