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Health and Safety Policy - What to include

All organisations employing 5 or more must have a written health and safety policy statement. The policy should cover all aspects of the organisation and be relevant to all employees.

Essential format and content of the policy statement

A policy statement should consist of three parts: 

1.  A general statement of intent

This should outline in broad terms the organisation's overall philosophy in relation to the management of health and safety, including reference to the broad responsibilities of both management and workforce.

2. Organisation (people and their duties)

This outlines the chain of command in terms of health and safety management, e.g:

  • Who is responsible to whom and for what?
  • How is the accountability fixed so as to ensure that delegated responsibilities are undertaken?
  • How is the policy implementation monitored?

Other organisational features should include:

  • Individual job descriptions having a safety content.
  • Details of specific safety responsibilities.
  • The role and function of safety committee(s).
  • The role and function of safety representatives.
  • A management chart clearly showing the lines of responsibility and accountability in terms of health and safety management. 

3. Arrangements (systems and procedures) 

This part of the policy deals with the practical arrangements by which the policy will be effectively implemented. These include:

  • Safety training; Safe systems of work.
  • Environmental control; Safe place of work.
  • Machine/area guarding; Housekeeping.
  • Safe plant and equipment; Noise control.
  • Radiation safety; Dust control.
  • Use of toxic materials; Internal communication/participation.
  • Utilisation of safety committee(s) and safety representatives.
  • Fire safety and prevention; Medical facilities and welfare.
  • Maintenance of records; Accident reporting and investigation.
  • Emergency procedures; Workplace monitoring.

The competent person who is to assist with compliance with health and safety requirements should also be included (See the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 7 - (MHSWR) (L21)) HSE Publication - L21 (PDF, 888kb)).

Records of arrangements are also required to be kept where five or more employees are employed (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Reg 5 (L21) HSE Publication - L21 (PDF, 888kb)).

Basic objectives and general content of statement  

Health and safety policy statements should state their main objectives, e.g.:

  • Commit to operating the business in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and all applicable regulations made under the Act, 'so far as reasonably practicable.'
  • Specify that health and safety are management responsibilities ranking equally with responsibilities for production, sales, costs, and similar matters.
  • Indicate that it is the duty of management to see that everything reasonably practicable is done to prevent personal injury in the processes of production, and in the design, construction, and operation of all plant, machinery and equipment, and to maintain a safe and healthy place of work.
  • Indicate that it is the duty of all employees to act responsibly, and to do everything they can to prevent injury to themselves and fellow workers. Although the implementation of policy is a management responsibility, it will rely heavily on the co-operation of those who actually produce the goods and take the risks.
  • Identify the main board director or managing board director (or directors) who have prime responsibility for health and safety, in order to make the commitment of the board precise, and provide points of reference for any manager who is faced with a conflict between the demands of safety and the demands of production.
  • Be dated so as to ensure that it is periodically revised in the light of current conditions, and be signed by the chairman, managing director, chief executive, or whoever speaks for the organisation at the highest level and with the most authority on all matters of general concern.
  • Clearly state how and by whom its operation is to be monitored.

Employees must be aware of the policy and its contents, in particular they must understand the arrangements which affect them and what their own responsibilities might be. They may be given their own copy (for example, within an employee handbook) or the policy might be displayed around the workplace. With regard to some arrangements, detailed briefings may be necessary, for example as part of induction training.

Employers must revise their policies as often 'as may be appropriate'. Larger employers are likely to need to arrange for formal review and, where necessary, for revision to take place on a regular basis.

Dating the policy document is an important part of this process. 

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