How to Write a Health and Safety Policy (Explained by UK Lawyers)
Despite its reputation as a buzzword, health and safety is truly important. However, as a consequence of its buzzword status, it can be tricky to know what a functioning health and safety policy is and what it should include.
Most businesses will implement a health and safety policy when setting out their approach to the welfare of their staff and customers. This will often define the firm’s commitment to health and safety, the steps it takes to maintain a standard of safety, and the responsibilities of individuals to uphold the health and safety policy.
A health and safety policy template can be a particularly useful asset when setting out your approach. A well-drafted health and safety policy template won’t just provide the basics, it will save you time, money, and potential legal issues.
But what should a health and safety policy template include? And how should you go about putting it into practice? In this blog, we break down in simple terms the components of a health and safety policy template.
Health and safety policy explained
Employers have a number of health and safety obligations to their staff and anyone who might visit the premises. This also extends to individuals who might be affected by the firm’s work. With more footfall to deal with, obligations are greater for businesses that are open to the public.
To define these obligations, and the steps required to meet them, a business will make use of a health and safety policy. This will set out in clear terms the employer’s intention, who’s responsible, and the measures in place to keep staff, customers, and relevant third parties safe.
How to write your health and safety policy
While health and safety policies will differ from business to business, they will share core tenets. A reliable health and safety policy template will include a number of key sections that allow you to accurately address your obligations as an employer - protecting your staff, customers, and relevant third parties in the process.
So, how should you go about writing a health and safety policy?
Firstly, you’ll want to include a brief explanation of the health and safety policy. Here, you’ll outline your intentions for the health and safety policy, and who has responsibility for the health and safety policy itself. Next, you’ll want to outline the responsibilities of staff in ensuring both their own safety and the safety of their colleagues, customers, and relevant third parties. If there is a recognised trade union or employee representatives, it’s important you outline these in the policy, to ensure they are appropriately consulted on health and safety matters.
It’s also important that your health and safety policy includes information on relevant training your staff will need to take. In the event staff require specialised equipment - for example, PPE (personal protective equipment), your health and safety policy should include information on what they need to wear - and the consequences if they fail to do so.
What happens in the event of a health and safety incident? Your health and safety policy will need to include information on what should be done in the event of an accident and who the first aiders are.
Unless your business is fully remote and therefore does not have a premises, your health and safety policy will also need to include information on fire safety rules related to your premises. You’ll need to include a procedure to be followed if a fire starts, or a fire alarm goes off. You’ll also need to provide information to staff regarding what they should do if they use certain kinds of equipment, for example, safe use of computers and display screen equipment. Risk assessments will also need to be conducted to ensure the safety of staff, customers and relevant third parties. Your health and safety policy will need to explain what health and safety risk assessments are and what they hope to achieve.
Depending on the work your business carries out - you may need to include sections within your health and safety policy that are more bespoke to the health and safety obligations of your business.
So, what does our health and safety policy template include?
Policy aims: Let’s start from the basics. Our health and safety policy template outlines the aims of the health and safety policy and who’s responsible for this legal document. Next up…
Responsibilities: This part of the health and safety policy template explains who takes responsibility for a safe working environment, who to report safety concerns to, and the risks of not complying with the health and safety policy.
Information and consultation: This section of the health and safety policy simply explains who will be consulted on health and safety matters. This might be a trade union, or an employee representative.
Training: This section of the health and safety policy template includes information on safety training an employee might need to do their job competently and safely. This extends to things like hazardous substances, electrical safety, asbestos awareness, and anything else that would be relevant for your working environment.
Equipment: Your health and safety policy template will need to explain the equipment you’ve provided for your staff, and how to safely use it.
Accidents and first aid: Accidents happen, which is why our health and safety policy template outlines the first-aid facilities available, the names of first-aiders, and how to report an accident at work.
Fire safety: This section of our health and safety policy template includes relevant information related to fire safety, from first assembly points to fire drills.
Risk assessments: Here, our health and safety policy template outlines the aims of a risk assessment, and measures taken to manage health and safety risks. This may include information relating to workstation assessments for staff.
Questions: Finally, no health and safety policy template would be complete without an outline of who to contact in the event the health and safety policy left a few questions unanswered.
Does my small business need a health and safety policy?
Whether you’re a small business or a global conglomerate, you’ll need to make use of a health and safety policy. Health and safety laws in the UK include a number of legal obligations that must be followed by businesses (set out below).
Health and safety law states that organisations must:
assess risks to employees, customers, partners and any other people who could be affected by the organisation’s activities;
arrange for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of preventive and protective measures;
have a written health and safety policy if the business employs five or more people;
ensure they have access to competent health and safety advice;
consult employees about their risks at work and current preventive and protective measures.
Failure to comply with these legal requirements can have serious consequences – for both the organisation and individuals. Sanctions include fines, imprisonment and even disqualification from an industry. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ramifications of failing to comply with health and safety obligations.
Initially, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may issue a notice of improvement or prohibition to an enterprise that's breaching health and safety legislation, however, consequences become increasingly severe for breaches which allow HSE to take more serious action.
Generally speaking breaches of health and safety laws can incur fines of up to £20,000, but breaches of health and safety laws that endanger human lives can result in unlimited fines or imprisonment. In one case an employer was fined £200,000 when the health and safety failings of his organisation resulted in the death of an employee. If an employee is injured at a workplace that failed to uphold health and safety best practices, there’s also a chance they could bring a personal injury claim against the business.
It’s also important to consider the reputational damage incurred if a business fails to comply with its duty to care regarding health and safety of its staff or the public it comes into contact with. If a case is severe, it’s also possible that a business could be disqualified from its industry if the Health and Safety Executive decides that the business is being run dangerously.
Who’s responsible for health and safety in the workplace?
With ramifications as severe as imprisonment and disqualification from an industry, it’s important to address who’s responsible for health and safety in the workplace. While all members of staff have a level of responsibility to uphold a safe working environment, and failure to do so can result in disciplinary action or dismissal, the most severe of consequences rest with the senior members of the organisation.
If a health and safety offence is committed, and it’s with the consent or a result of the neglect, of any director, manager, secretary, or similar, then that person (and the organisation) can be prosecuted.
Probing more deeply, recent case law confirmed that directors cannot avoid a charge of neglect, by arranging their organisation to leave them ignorant regarding health and safety issues that would otherwise need their attention.
Not only that, but the Company Directors Disqualification Act goes so far as to empower the court to disqualify directors convicted of an offence in connection with the management of a company - including health and safety offences. Directors can also be liable for other related offences, such as gross negligence manslaughter.
The legal consequences of failing to comply with health and safety laws can be severe for senior members of an organisation, including an unlimited fine and a maximum of life imprisonment.
Use this lawyer-made health and safety policy template
A quick google search for a health and safety policy template will return millions of results. So how can you differentiate between a reliable policy and an ineffective legal document? Well, the answer is simple, if the health and safety policy template is broadly similar to the contents set out further down in this section then you are probably in the right place for a reliable health and safety policy template. If not, then steer clear, always put safety first!
At Docue we believe in equipping businesses with cost-effective document templates that don’t compromise on quality. That’s why our health and safety policy template is hand-crafted by experienced lawyers.
Just like all our template contracts and legal documents, the health and safety policy template on the Docue platform is lawyer-made, lawyer-maintained, and has lawyer-crafted guidelines to steer you through every stage of drafting a health and safety policy which is right for your business. So to create your health and safety policy with confidence and speed, simply click through the intelligent tick box options and text box answers and you’ll have a comprehensive, tailored, and ready-to-use health and safety policy in no time. The Docue platform also allows you to put the finishing and personal touches to your health and safety policy with logos and footers. Once you are all done you can leverage Docue’s unlimited and automatic archive storage to keep your health and safety policy safe and sound. Health and safety law in the UK is tricky and complex, so if you do get stuck our lawyer-drafted guidance notes are there to help you along the way.
Failing to comply with health and safety obligations has a series of risks - not least the health and safety risk to your staff, customers and relevant third parties. Fortunately, a health and safety policy template can offer you the foundations needed to create a robust approach to health and safety in the workplace.
Does your business need to formalise its commitment to the welfare of your team, customers and relevant third parties? If your business employs 5+ people then you have no choice, you must have a written health and safety policy. Even if you have less than 5 people in your team it is still highly recommended to put a written health and safety policy in place. The risks of not having one are simply not worth it! Get started with the Docue health and safety policy template now.
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Docue Legal Team