Who is responsible for workplace health and safety policies and procedures?
The responsibility of health and safety policies and procedures in a workplace ultimately lies with the employer. The employer has a duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers in their organisation.
While employers will look for assistance from OSH professionals for guidance (either employed in house, or external consultants) employers are responsible for deciding on direction, implementation, and financing for the successful application of their advice.
What are the employers responsibilities towards health and safety policies and procedures?
Whilst the employer has overall responsibility for health and safety in the workplace, that does not mean that no one else has a part to play in managing health and safety. All workers, irrespective of their role or seniority are required to assist the employer in discharging his duties in keeping the workplace safe.
At the very least, employees are expected to attend training, take responsibility for correctly wearing and maintaining any PPE issued for their role, following policy and procedure, and reporting accidents, incidents and near misses.
Why is it the employer’s responsibility?
Employers, directors, senior leaders are the ‘decision-makers’ within an organisation and therefore accountable for the decisions they make. The expectation is that employers will finance and support health and safety within the workplace to ensure that it is robust enough to protect the employees, visitors, or anyone else that may be affected by its’ activities.
It’s not my job!
Unfortunately, a big problem that still exists in the work place is the attitude of “it’s not my job”.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does place a duty on employees to be responsible for his/her own health and safety in the workplace, and that of colleagues and co-workers. However, trying to implement that duty with a big stick often has the opposite effect.
To overcome such a barrier, the employer should actively promote the concept of health and safety being good for everyone and establishing a culture of everybody looking out for each other and making the workplace a healthier and safer place to work.
Often this can be a simple matter of identifying workers who could become champions of health and safety by empowering them to make decisions over safe working in their work area. People listen to people, workers love to talk and they always want what their colleagues have. Often it works!
What should a good Health and Safety policy look like?
A Health & Safety Policy is the backbone to safety and compliance in any company, and it should be clear and robust.
It establishes and clarifies the approach of the organisation to health and safety matters, affirms the commitment of the directors and senior personnel in preventing harm, and helps to promote safe working practices.
It also provides direction for other managers and staff in general in order to get everyone on the same page of a healthy and accident-free work environment.
And remember, if 5 or more people are employed in the organisation then it is a legal requirement to have a written health and safety policy detailing the company approach to safety and health throughout the business.
What should a Health and Safety policy include?
Referring back to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, a Health & Safety Policy should contain three parts:
- Detail about your organisation aims and objectives towards health and safety. This is known as a Statement of Intent and affirms your commitment towards ensuring a robust policy of health and safety throughout the organisation.
- The organisation of health and safety and who has responsibility for what. This section aims to set out the names, positions and duties of those within your organisation who have specific responsibility for health and safety. Each individual must be clear about their responsibilities and the limits of those responsibilities, and to take reasonable care of their own and others’ health and safety at work.
- The arrangements for health and safety. This section should contain details of your systems and procedures used to back up your Health & Safety Policy Statement. This will include details of first aid, washroom facilities, fire procedures, health and safety rules and reporting procedures. This section might get quite long depending on your organization, but the clearer and simpler it can be kept, the better, and it should reflect what you do and how you manage risk in your business.
What should you include in your Health and Safety policy.
Often, that sort of information can be different and unique depending on your business type, work activities and risk involved in carrying out your business.
However, some things are common to all businesses, and the following list is fairly typical but not exhaustive.
- Expected standards of health and safety compliance from employees. (Codes of Practice)
- Arrangements for reporting accident and illness, investigation procedures, etc.
- Risk assessment procedures
- First aid procedures and appointed persons.
- Control of exposure to hazards such as noise, manual handling, hazardous substances, etc.
- Emergency and fire drill procedures
- Catering and food hygiene procedures
- Machinery safety and PAT testing of electrical equipment
- Issue and use of PPE
- Procedures for ensuring the safety of contractors, visitors and members of the public
- Provision of welfare facilities
- Health and safety training.
- Induction procedures
- Arrangements for consulting with employees
- Driving for work policy (use of mobile phones etc)
- Smoking, drugs and alcohol policy
If all this appears overwhelming it’s understandable. At the end of the day the law just expects common sense to be applied to common safety, but it also expects you to engage a competent person to assist in discharging your duties towards health and safety. This can be in-house, an external consultant, or a combination of both which is often the best option.
Your in-house person does not necessarily need to be over qualified, but rather be competent in the understanding of the business and have some appropriate health and safety awareness training such as the L2 Health and Safety Awareness for Employees
See our full range of online Health and Safety training HERE