For any company that has more than five employees, you must have a written health and safety policy and you must bring that policy to the attention of your employees via training. Once you have a Workplace Health and Safety Policy in place, how often do you need to renew your policy?
Is it time to renew your Health and Safety Policy?
There’s no set time for renewal of your health and safety policy but it should be reviewed and revised as often as necessary to keep your employees safe; any time your employees have to complete a new task with associated risks, you need to complete a risk assessment and update your policy.
Legally, you only have to assess and write down the risks associated with employees; however, it’s a good idea to have a policy in place covering anyone who will be affected by your activities such as volunteers, contractors, or the public.
If any of the following are true, it's time to renew:
- You have recently moved to a new office / site
- When you move to a new site, there are new hazards to consider, so it'll be time to update your policy.
- You'll want to do a new hazard assessment, say who is responsible for actions, and note how you'll achieve maximum safety in the new work environment.
- You have expanded your office space or added something new to it (eg. new machinery or desked area)
- Any time you add new hazards to the workplace, you'll need to renew your policy.
- When spaces change, the people in those spaces have to move and act differently, so it's important to keep safety in mind.
- It's 12 months since you last looked at your policy
- Policies should be checked regularly to identify new hazards and maximize safety.
- If you haven't decided on a time frame, it's a good idea to renew your policy every 12 months minimum.
- You've recently hired more staff or a high volume of staff (perm or temp)
- More bodies, more safety concerns!
- New hires merits a new safety policy, and you'll need to update your workforce on those policies.
- There has been an accident or near incident at work
- This point seems obvious but when there has been an accident at work (or a near miss), it is a critical and important time to reassess your workplace safety.
- Accidents cost time and money, and a policy renewal costs much less.
- Employee's have raised concerns about an area at work or a specific aspect of their work
- It's absolutely fantastic if your employees feel comfortable reporting issues, so it's 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. If your workplace goes years without accidents, you'll be glad you made changes when needed.
- Always encourage employees to be responsible for Workplace Health and Safety.
What should be included in my Workplace Health and Safety Policy?
Generally policies are written with three inclusive sections: a statement of general policy; a section on who is responsible for specific actions; and an arrangement section, detailing what you’ll do to achieve maximum workplace safety.
Your policy should identify all of the hazards in the workplace - something in your workplace that could harm people such as chemicals, electricity, heights, and so forth - and the risks or the chance a hazard could cause harm; all risks should be identified 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; using signs to identify risks; improve your safety equipment by using guards or additional PPE - goggles, safety boots, respirators, hi-vis, etc; replace hazardous chemicals with less harmful alternatives; improve lighting; and/or install anti-slip flooring.
Choose a competent person or outside consultant to help conduct health and safety measures.
Any business owner must choose a competent person to help with implementing and writing your safety policy. This person could be the business owner, a colleague, or an outside consultant. Ideally, the person responsible should have previous experience identifying and assessing risks.
For high-risk workplaces, have a workers-compensation policy in place too.
Any company with employees is required by law to have an employers’ liability insurance. If an employee is injured as a result of work done for your company, they can claim compensation. If you have taken reasonable action to prevent accidents - as outlined in your health and safety policy - you should not have to pay compensation, but if you are liable, then the employers’ liability insurance will help you pay compensation for illness or injury.
What happens if I the violate health and safety policy and one of my workers is harmed?
If your company is deemed 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. Fines can be imposed upon individuals and the company itself.
If an employee dies as a result of failure of the health and safety measures, your company could be guilty of corporate manslaughter or individuals can be charged with culpable homicide, or manslaughter by gross negligence.
Make sure you’re Health and Safety and PPE Compliant
As you can see, failure to implement a proper Health and Safety plan could cause dire consequences for your company. It’s best that you simply cover all bases when implementing policies. It’s better to be extra safe and over-precautious than negligent. Download our FREE PPE compliance checklist for you to determine what equipment you’ll need in the second section of your Health and Safety policy.
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.