1 To give advice on the main elements of written safety policies and the suggested enforcement action for contravention of HSW Act Section 2(3)
2 Section 2(3) of the HSW Act states 'Except in such cases as may be prescribed, it shall be the duty of every employer to prepare and as often as may be appropriate, revise a written statement of his general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of his employees and the organisation and arrangements, for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring that statement and any revision of it to the notice of all his employees'.
3 This requirement is limited by the Employers Health and Safety Policy Statements (Exceptions) Regulations 1975 (SI 1975 No. 1584) to exempt employers who carry on undertakings in which for the time being less than five employees work.
4 It should be noted that "undertaking" does not mean the same as "establishment". An employer could operate a number of small establishments, each employing less than five employees. If all the establishments form part of the same undertaking, and the total of employees is five or more, the employer must prepare a written health and safety policy for the whole undertaking.
BREACHES OF THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
5 In cases of flagrant disregard of Section 2(3) enforcing officers may find it necessary to inform employers of their powers to issue improvement notices and to spell out the consequences. It is suggested that in dealing with Section 2(3) enforcing authorities should proceed in accordance with these guidelines. It is doubtful whether in law enforcing officers can require employers to set high standards in preparing policies and it is important to obtain the co-operation of employers to avoid mediocre, but legally sufficient policies from being produced.
6 In general, employers should be given advice and encouragement to produce well thought out policies appropriate to their organisations, rather than policies which meet the letter rather than the intentions of the law.
7 Under Regulation 4 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992, employers are required to give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventative and protective measures. For employers with five or more employees, the arrangements need to be recorded.
8 Enforcing officers should be aware that the written health and safety policy could effectively record the arrangements required by Regulation 4. Therefore, officers should not require employers to duplicate the information.
THE ROLE OF THE ENFORCING OFFICER
9 Where employers are required to prepare a written statement of health and safety Policy, enforcing officers will need to evaluate it as a means of satisfying themselves that employers have carefully thought through their policy, and established the necessary organisation and arrangements to make the policy work.
10 The health and safety policy statement should be the employers' action plan for health and safety at work. This does not mean that the policy statement needs necessarily to be long or elaborate; it must be appropriate to the circumstances. If the management structure of the employers undertaking is simple, then the health and policy statement (detailing the employers organisation and arrangements) should also be simple and brief.
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF SAFETY POLICY - The Main Elements
11 (a) The general statement.
(b) The organisation for carrying it out.
(c) The arrangements for ensuring health and safety at the workplace.
EVALUATION OF SAFETY POLICIES
12 The General Statement. This should be a declaration of the employers' intent to provide and maintain, so far as reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy working environment and to enlist the support of employees towards achieving these ends. The statement can be quite short; two or three paragraphs may suffice. The statement should be signed by the employer or chief executive, to demonstrate commitment to managing health and safety.
13 The organisation. To be effective, this should detail health and safety responsibilities within the organisation. Where appropriate key individuals or their job titles should be named, and responsibilities defined within a job description. This will apply to specialists (eg. safety adviser, works engineer, etc.) as much as to line management and supervisors.
14 The arrangements. This part of the policy will need to cover the systems and procedures in place for ensuring employees' health and safety.
15 The health and safety policy statement does not need to record the full details of all procedures. The policy statement can refer to other documentation such as risk assessments, training programmes, emergency instructions, etc. .However, the policy statement should record the arrangements and procedures for how these matters are managed.
16 Examples of topics to be covered in the policy statement could include:
- managing risk assessments;
- arrangements for consultation with employees;
- arrangements for maintaining plant and equipment;
- arrangements for safe handling and use of substances;
- arrangements for providing information, instruction and supervision;
- arrangements for training;
- arrangements for accidents, first aid and ill-health issues;
- arrangements for monitoring;
- emergency procedures arrangements.
USE OF SAFETY POLICY AS A TOOL OF INSPECTION
17 A good safety policy statement is an aid to inspection. The policy statement should outline who is responsible for key issues and how, when and what they should be doing as part of those responsibilities.
18 Enforcing officers should use the policy statement by testing it out against the actual organisation provided to control health and safety within the company, and the procedures actually operating to minimise risks to health and safety. For example, if managers' and supervisors' job descriptions include levels of health and safety responsibility, do they in practice understand and accept that they have such responsibilities and what steps do they take to discharge them?. Where the safety policy itself is defective, the inspection will be likely to reveal some, if not all its deficiencies; managers ignorant of the need for devising safe systems of work, employees not trained, etc. . In such cases, in addition to getting the specific matter attended to, enforcing officers will wish to criticise constructively the company's safety policy and advise on ways in which it can be improved.
MODEL SAFETY POLICY FOR SMALLER FIRMS
19 Many small firm employers may have difficulty in understanding their legal obligations and will need help in preparing a policy. Employers must provide their own written statements, not least because writing out their policies demonstrates their commitment to planning and managing health and safety.
20 HSE has published a "model" safety policy for small firms ("Guidance on preparing a health and safety policy statement for a small business") The guidance is intended to help employers think through a policy that is right for their business, and to write it down by filling in the blank sections in the guidance. It aims to counter the unfortunate practice of buying "off-the-shelf" safety policies, which frustrates the objective of the HSW Act and to encourage employers to consider for themselves the measures they need to manage health and safety in their workplace. It also advises employers about other relevant legislation and measures they are required to take.
21 Where it appears that a firm may have difficulty in preparing an adequate policy statement, enforcing officers should advise them of the availability of the "fill-in-the-blanks" guidance
22 Any enquiries on the contents of this circular should be directed to the Enforcement Liaison Officer at the local HSE Area Office.