An occupational health and safety (OHS) policy is an employer’s written commitment to the health and safety of both their employees and their workplace.
Health and safety legislation requires all employers to implement workplace health and safety programs. A written OHS policy statement can be very effective in promoting these programs. A good OHS policy will also reduce costs associated with workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses.
(Learn more in Measuring the Hidden Costs of Accidents.)
If you've been tasked with developing and implementing an OHS policy for your workplace, this article will provide you with all the information you need to write an effective and comprehensive one.
Who Should Write the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
Although an employer may delegate the preparation of the policy to an employee, the employer should be held responsible for the policy’s content. Therefore, the company’s OHS policy statement should be a collaborative effort between the management and staff, as well as health and safety professionals.
What Can I Do to Ensure That the Company's OHS Policy Statement Is Effective?
- Involve senior management when preparing the policy
- Ensure that the policy is not generic and is tailored to the actual needs of your workplace
- Make sure the policy is consistent with your company's vision and main objectives
- Write the policy in clear, simple language
What Issues Should Be Covered in the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
- Commitment from all levels of management in establishing a healthy and safe workplace
- Commitment from all levels of management in integrating health and safety into all workplace activities
- Responsibilities of management, employees, contractors, and visitors in maintaining a healthy and safe work environment
- Accountability by all levels of management for effectively and efficiently performing their health and safety responsibilities
- Management consultation, involvement, and cooperation with employees in developing, implementing, and monitoring the policy
- Management's commitment to periodically review the policy and monitor its effectiveness
- How management plans to allocate funds for health and safety
General Responsibilities Under the OHS Policy Statement
It does not matter how well-written your company’s OHS policy statement is if responsibilities are not clearly defined and assigned.
The following are some of the general roles and responsibilities of employers, workers, and OHS committees under an OHS policy.
- Provide and maintain safe equipment, tools, and work processes
- Provide the information and training necessary for ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of employees
- Supervise work processes and procedures and ensure that employees comply with all applicable health and safety legislation, as well as safe work practices standards
- Provide and ensure that employees wear the appropriate PPE
- Educate and raise awareness among employees regarding workplace hazards and safe work practices and procedures
- Cooperate with the company’s OHS committee to ensure that workplace inspections are completed periodically and follow-up actions are taken as necessary
- Report all serious injuries or fatalities to the relevant authorities
- Keep up-to-date health and safety records, such as training records and accident and incident records
(Find out Who Pays for Personal Protective Equipment.)
- Work safely and in a way that does not put themselves or their coworkers at risk
- Cooperate with the OHS committee to identify and address safety issues they face on the job
- Educate themselves on and follow safe work practices and procedures at all times
- Properly use all safety clothing, equipment, and devices provided
- Report unsafe conditions to their supervisor or to a member of the company's OHS committee
OHS Committee Responsibilities
The company’s OHS committee must:
- Participate in the identification of workplace hazards
- Conduct workplace inspections periodically
- Make recommendations to the employer with regard to implementing and enforcing safe work practices
- Record health and safety concerns from employees, contractors, and visitors
- In collaboration with management, establish and promote a workplace culture of health and safety
How Should I Incorporate the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
Once you've drafted your policy, you need to make sure it's implemented effectively. Doing so requires you to:
- Recognize, evaluate, and control hazards
- Conduct regular workplace inspections
- Establish procedures for reporting and investigating accidents and incidents
- Document and record safety-related activities
- Monitor management and staff to ensure they are carrying out their health and safety responsibilities
How Should I Communicate the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
The OHS policy statement can be communicated by:
- Providing health and safety induction training for new members of staff
- Providing health and safety training for current members of staff on an on-going basis
- Distributing a copy of the OHS policy statement to all members of staff
- Including it in policies and procedures manuals
- Hosting safety talks and meetings
- Displaying management’s commitment to workplace health and safety by setting a positive example
After implementing your OHS policy statement, make sure you review it thoroughly every year. Ensure that it still meets the needs of the workplace, corresponds with the risks and hazards faced by employees, and conforms to and reflects all of the latest regulations ad standards.