Having a written health and safety policy is a legal requirement for businesses with 5 staff or more. For smaller businesses it is still a good idea to have one written down, but not required by law. The purpose of a health and safety policy is to set out how a business manages health and safety and to detail responsibilities and timelines. The document should then be shared with employees, stakeholders and sometimes suppliers.

What should a health and safety policy include?

The health and safety policy should be specific to your business and reflect your unique environment, culture and situation. It should act as a top level, overarching document that ties together your practical efforts of managing health and safety in your business.

The HSE suggest three main sections:

  • Statement of Intent: this should detail the business’ general commitment to managing health and safety, providing safe working conditions, and what the aims are.
  • Responsibilities for health and safety: this should be a list of names, positions and roles of individuals who have responsibility for managing health and safety
  • Arrangements for health and safety: practical arrangements that have been put in place to manage the company’s health and safety, such as risk assessments, training and using safety signs and equipment

The HSE have provided a useful example and template.

How long should a health and safety policy be?

There are no hard and fast rules and it very much depends on the size and environment your business operates in. For businesses operating in a low-risk working environment such as offices, the policy can be quite short. Companies who operate in higher risk industries such as construction, utilities or power networks may need to provide more detail and tend to have additional safety measures in place, and often have a dedicated Health and Safety Manager. The health and safety policy should then be supported by more detailed risk assessments for the different parts of your business.

Summary

Writing a health and safety policy is a legal requirement for most businesses and doesn’t need to take long. By covering the above areas and considering all risks and how best to manage them you can show that you are serious about managing health and safety and keeping your staff, contractors and suppliers safe.

Our IOSH – Managing Safely course is ideal for Managers, Supervisors and anyone else within a role of responsibility for managing risk within their sector or organisation.