There are several good reasons to write an effective health and safety policy. This policy will ensure that you comply with OSHA and other regulations. Further, it allows you to create clear guidelines, write policies, and implement programs to protect your employees’ health and safety. Finally, this policy will allow you to identify and reduce the potential hazards in your workplace.
What Are The Benefits of a Health And Safety Policy?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,333 workers died after being injured at work. Overall, employers reported 2.8 injury and illness cases per 100 workers. Even non-fatal work injuries can be tragic and debilitating. They also cause loss of time, liability, and workplace disruptions. Further, morale goes down if employers don’t believe their safety is your priority.
In addition to having a policy for the sake of legal compliance, your health and safety policy is a plan and guide. It provides your employees with the rules and guidelines they need to work safely. The result is that you reduce or eliminate the potential for injuries in your place of business.
The First Step of Writing a Health And Safety Policy
The best way to start is to learn everything you need to about the laws and regulations that apply to your place of business. You may find that you have different things to consider if you are a food-service operation than you would if you were operating a rec center.
Start by searching the OSHA website for guidelines and regulations that apply to your industry. Additionally, you’ll be able to find general regulations as well as helpful tools here. For example, there’s a very detailed guide that is specifically for protecting the health and safety of restaurant employees. Best of all, you will be able to find specific advice on how to write your policy.
Finally, check with your local, county, and state. There may be agencies such as your state’s department of labor or county health department that has additional health and safety guidelines.
Evaluate Your Current Situation
Now you know the guidelines you have to follow. It’s time to do a current state assessment. Identify areas of key concern and any unique situations you might want to address. Here are a few things to look into:
- Review injury and incident reports: look for repeated injuries in a certain area or department.
- Speak to floor supervisors, managers, and team leaders to learn any concerns they have.
- Communicate with employees about hazards they may have noticed, near misses, etc.
- Identify safety hotspots, such as places where chemicals are stored or where heavy lifting is required.
- Analyze any warnings or violations you may have received.
Write a Clear Opening Statement
The first paragraphs of your health and safety policy should really communicate a few things clearly:
- Health and safety is a top priority.
- You care about your employees’ wellbeing.
- Learning and complying with these policies is absolutely essential.
- Leadership is available to ensure that everyone understands these policies.
Detail What The Policy Document Includes
Hopefully, your staff doesn’t simply read your policy once, sign the acknowledgment, then forget all about it. Your health and safety policy should serve as a reference and training guide as well. Make sure it is easy to find the information they need.
Start by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the document. This will help anyone who needs to find information quickly. If you keep the document online, make the table of contents ‘clickable’.
You can also make your health policy easier to understand by making each entry consistent. Angela Baker is a training coordinator at Supreme Dissertations who says, “Use the same formatting, fonts, colors, etc. For example, the policy name might always be in bold print, explanations in italics, and emergency instructions always in red. In an emergency situation, someone referencing the policy will be better able to understand the information in front of them.”
Add Visuals to Help Understanding
Remember that you want your policy document to be helpful to everyone who needs it. Chances are, you employ people with different learning styles and varying levels of understanding. Add diagrams, graphs, and other visuals to your policy document to better ensure that it is useful to anyone who references it. There are some great tools you can use to include visuals in your policy and improve the text around those, including Canva, TrustMyPaper, and GIMP.
Communicate Ownership And Responsibility
Who should employees approach if they have questions or concerns about these policies? Where do they go to report an accident or violation? What if they want to report something anonymously? The policy should make it clear who is responsible for ensuring compliance, investigating workplace injuries, and handling concerns.
Finally, consider adding contact information to any relevant outside agencies. In some cases, employees may feel uncomfortable reporting concerns internally. It’s a good policy to provide them with other options.
Detail Risk Mitigation Efforts
It can be helpful for employees to understand what you have done to make the workplace safer for them. Provide helpful information that explains what you have done to help prevent workplace illness or injuries. Here’s an example:
“In the past 12 months, we have taken several steps to ensure that our valued employees work in the safest environment possible. This includes:
- Placing first aid kits on every floor and in each break room.
- Equipping the sales floor with three spill stations that contain supplies for cleaning biohazards.
- Redesigning cashier stations for ergonomics.
- Offering free PPE to all employees and strictly enforcing masking policies for customers.
- Increasing safety inspections to twice weekly.
- Implementing mandatory safety training programs for all employees.
- Adding six new hand sanitizer stations to the free weights area.
- Providing all stockroom employees with a 500 dollar annual reimbursement for slip resistant shoes, back support, and other equipment.
It is our hope that these changes contribute significantly towards our goal of eliminating workplace injuries entirely.”
Emphasize Employee Accountability
As an employer, your job is to provide appropriate training, equipment that is in good repair, enough staff to handle the current workload without exhaustion, and means to quickly and safely deal with any emergencies. However, employees also bear responsibilities. Add information to your policy that details what employees are expected to do in order to contribute to a safe environment, including:
- Immediately reporting unsafe conditions.
- Informing supervisors of any illness or injury regardless of severity.
- Following procedures when lifting, carrying, using potentially dangerous equipment, climbing ladders, etc.
- Never using any equipment that they have not been trained to use.
- Staying home if running a fever, coughing, or showing other signs of Covid-19.
- Complying with directives in the health and safety manual, shop floor signage, and supervisor instructions at all times.
The importance of providing a safe work environment cannot be overstated. Employees who believe you care about their safety have better morale and value their relationship with your organization. This is in addition to the benefit of reducing potential liabilities and lost productivity. Of course, legal compliance is also imperative. All of these are the key reasons that you must have a health and safety policy that is clear, useful, and comprehensive.