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Is It Time to Renew Your Workplace Health And Safety Policy?

If your company has five employees or more, you must have a written workplace health and safety policy. You should bring this to the attention of your employees via training. 

Is it time to renew your Health and Safety Policy?

There is no set time for renewal of your health and safety policy. However, you should review and revise the policy when necessary, e.g. whenever you need to complete a risk assessment or whenever there is a change in the law.

By law, you only need to assess and write the risks that are associated with your employees. You can do this by having a workplace health and safety policy in place that covers those who are affected by your work activities, such as volunteers and the public.

Health & Safety Law - What you need to know Poster
Official Health & Safety Executive Poster

If any of the following are true, it is time to renew: 

  • You have moved to a new office/site. There are new hazards to consider so it will be time to update your policy. You will want to do a new hazard assessment, say who is responsible for actions, and note how you will achieve maximum safety in the new work environment. 
  • You have expanded your office space or added something new to it (eg. new machinery or desk area). Any time you add new hazards to the workplace, you will need to renew your policy.  When spaces change, the people in those spaces have to move and act different, so it is important to keep safety in mind.  
  • It is 12 months since you last looked at your policy. You should check your policy regularly to identify new hazards and maximise safety. If you have not decided on a time frame, it is a good idea to renew your policy every 12 months minimum.  
  • You have hired more staff or a high volume of staff (perm or temp). New hires merits a new safety policy, and you will need to update your workforce on those policies. 
  • There has been an accident or near incident at work. It is critical to reassess your workplace safety. Accidents cost time and money whereas a policy renewal costs much less.
  • Employee’s have raised concerns about an area at work or a specific aspect of their work. If your employees report an issue, it is vital that you listen. If employees speak up and feel unsafe, make sure you make them feel safe and confident in your company by taking action to make the workplace a safer place. 

Always encourage employees to be responsible for Workplace Health and Safety.  

What should you include in your Workplace Health and Safety Policy?

Policies are written with three inclusive sections: 

  • A statement of general policy
  • A section on who is responsible for specific actions
  • An arrangement section (detailing what you will do to achieve maximum workplace safety).

Your policy needs to identify all of the hazards in the workplace and the risks or the chance a hazard could cause harm. You should identify all risks, even if the risk is low.

Besides the basic arrangements to make conditions as safe as possible, your workplace can take additional safety measures such as:

  • Staff training - Ensure all relevant staff are up to date on the relevant PPE regulations and codes
  • Using warning signs to identify risks - Signage is the best way to ensure employees and visitors are away of local risks
  • Improve your equipment by using guards - can a hand fit in there whilst the machine is running? It's best to fit a guard than rely on a human not putting their fingers in.
  • Additional Personal Protective Equipment (such as goggles, safety boots, respirators, hi-vis) - PPE is the LAST line of defence in personal safety, but it's highly effective. Ensure your staff are kitted out appropriately and know to use their PPE correctly and keep it well maintained.

Choose a competent person or outside consultant to help conduct health and safety measures.

As a business owner, you need to choose someone who is competent and can help you to implement and write your safety policy. This person could be you, a colleague or an outside consultant. It is important that the person responsible for this has previous experience in identifying and assessing risks in the workplace.

You can find a local H&S Consultant for your sector near you using this handy tool by Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register Ltd

For high-risk workplaces, have a workers-compensation policy in place too.

By law, if your company has employees you need to have employers’ liability insurance to cover you incase one of your employees is injured whilst working and they claim compensation.

If you are liable, this insurance will help you to pay for the compensation without risking your business.

What happens if I violate health and safety policy and one of my workers is harmed?

If they deem your company at fault for causing an employee harm in the magistrates’ court, then the maximum fines are £20,000 and/or one year’s imprisonment.

If the case is heard in the Crown Court, the fines are unlimited, and prison sentences are up to two years. They can impose fines upon individuals and the company itself.

This DOES happen - you should not consider prosecution as unlikely. "It will never happen to me" may well just happen to you as many cases have shown.

Make sure you are Health and Safety and PPE Compliant

Failure to implement a proper Health and Safety plan could cause dire consequences for your company. It is best that you cover all bases when implementing policies.

It is better to be extra safe and over-precautious than negligent. 

Make sure you update all equipment regularly and conduct regular workplace risk assessments to determine if you need more PPE to keep your workers safe.