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 legislations require all employers to implement workplace health and safety programs. A written OHS policy statement can be very effective in promoting workplace health and safety programs. Additionally, developing, implementing and maintaining an OSH Policy Statement can be beneficial to a company economically. It reduces costs associated with workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. If you are an individual assigned with the task of developing and implementing an OHS policy statement for your workplace, then this article will provide you with all the information you need to write an effective OHS policy statement.
Who Should Write the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
Your company’s OHS Policy Statement should be specific to your workplace. 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 collaborated effort between the management and staff, as well as professional health safety experts in the field.
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 meets the actual needs of your workplace
- Ensure that the policy is consistent with the main objectives of your company
- Write the policy in clear, simple language
What Issues Should Be Covered in the Company’s OHS Policy Statement?
- The commitment of all levels of management in establishing a healthy and safe workplace (To read more about the importance of management in achieving workplace health and safety, check out: Leading Health and Safety at Work)
- The commitment of all levels of management in integrating health and safety into all workplace activities
- The responsibilities of management, employees, contractors and visitors/customers in maintaining a healthy and safe work environment
- All levels of management’s accountability with regards to effectively and efficiently performing their health and safety responsibilities
- The importance of management consulting, involving and co-operating with employees as it relates to the development, implementation and monitoring of the company’s OHS policy statement, as well as workplace health and safety programs.
- The commitment of all levels of management with regards to the periodical reviewing of the company’s OHS policy statement, as well as monitoring its effectiveness
- How management plans on allocating health and safety funds and finances
General Responsibilities Under the OSH Policy Statement
It does not matter how well written your company’s OSH policy statement is. It cannot be put into effect unless responsibilities are 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 the relevant health and safety legislations, as well as safe work practices standards at all times
- Provide and ensure that employees wear the appropriate personal protective clothing and devices (PPE)
- Educate and raise awareness among employees regarding workplace hazards, and safe work practices and procedures
- Consult and cooperate with the company’s OHS committee to ensure that workplace inspections are completed periodically, and follow-up actions are taken as necessary
- Reporting all serious injuries or death to the relevant authorities (To learn more about accident reporting, check out: 7 Critical Steps You Must Take When Investigating and Reporting Accidents)
- Keep up-to-date health and safety records, such as training records, accident and incident records, etc.
- Ensure their own health and safety, as well as that of their coworkers
- Consult and cooperate with the OHS committee regarding health and safety issues that have the potential to, or are affecting their ability to do their job
- Be knowledgeable on and follow safe work practices and procedures at all times
- Properly use all safety clothing/equipment/devices provided (For tips on selecting and using the right PPE, check out: 6 Personal Protective Guidelines Every Employee Should Know)
- Report unsafe conditions in the workplace to their supervisor or to a member of the company's OHS committee
The company’s OHS Committee must:
- Participate in the identification of workplace hazards
- Participate in or conduct workplace inspections periodically
- Make recommendations to the employer with regards to implementing and enforcing safe work practices
- Receive and record health and safety concerns from employees, contractors, visitors and customers
- Establish and promote a workplace culture of health and safety, in collaboration with management (To learn more about developing a workplace safety culture, check out: Workplace Safety Culture 101)
How Should I Incorporate the Company’s OSH Policy Statement Into the Workplace?
To ensure that your company’s newly written OHS policy statement is effective, meaningful actions should be undertaken. These include:
- Recognizing, evaluating and controlling hazards
- Conducting workplace inspections periodically
- Establishing procedures for reporting and investigating accidents and incidents
- Documenting and recording health and safety related activities
- Monitoring management and staff to ensure they are carrying out their health and safety responsibilities, as well as to evaluate the existing OHS Policy Statement
How Should I Communicate the Company’s OSH Policy Statement?
The OHS policy statement can be communicated effectively 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 on policies and procedures manuals
- Hosting safety talks and meetings
- Displaying management’s commitment to workplace health and safety by setting an example
Maintaining an OHS policy statement is equally as important as developing and implementing the policy. It is also crucial to its effectiveness. Health and safety is an ongoing process and, as such, it requires continuous attention from employers and employees, as well as the company’s OHS committee. It is the combined responsibility of these individuals to keep abreast of changes in legislation and any other area that may affect workplace health and safety. Additionally, the OHS policy should be reviewed yearly and revised as needed to ensure it continues to effectively reflect the specific needs of the company.