Importance of Work Health and Safety Policies and Procedures

Work Health and Safety Policies and Procedures

 Health and safety policies and procedures are part of a framework for effective health and safety management. A general health and safety policy states management’s intention to provide safe and health workplace, and states the health and safety goals of a workplace. It should also demonstrate the PCBU’s acknowledgement of their legal duties and their intention to voluntarily comply with those duties. WHS policy is simply a method of stating how an employer, their employees, contractors and visitors are expected to behave when they are on company property or performing company related activities.

  Specific policies and procedures address particular issues and hazards. They are administrative measures to control workplace hazards and should be used together with other hazard control measures to eliminate or reduce the risk of workplace illness or injury. Specific health and safety policies and procedures should provide clear direction or instruction by which workplace hazards will be identified, and the risk assessed and controlled by the measures described. A formal policy and procedure can ensure hazards are dealt with in a structured and agreed manner, rather than in response to a crisis. Policies ought to be implemented and applied consistently and fairly throughout the workplace.

 Preparing a health and safety policy is an important practical step towards providing and maintaining a work environment that is safe and without risks to health. WHS policies and procedures should be developed in consultation with workers and provide a clear statement about the organisation’s commitment to managing WHS risks in the workplace. Good policy development is flexible enough to accommodate all work activities, and yet balances a healthy commitment to find the safest methods for working.

WHS policies and procedures are essential for workplace because they:

  • Demonstrate what the company is addressing its health and safety obligations.                                       
  • Show what the business is committed to working within a set of health and safety principles.
  • Clarify functions and responsibilities in the organisation.
  • Ensure that safe system of work are recorded, communicated to workers and implemented in a consistent way throughout the organisation.
  • Guide the future actions of workers in a formal way.
  • Help the organisation to manage staff more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
  • Save time by allowing health and safety matters to be handled quickly through an existing procedure, rather than staff dealing with problems as they occur or responding differently each time the same issues arises.
  • Foster stability and ensure uniformity and consistency in decision-making and operational procedures.

Health and safety policies will vary from one organisation to another, and should reflect the particular needs and operation of the organisation preparing the policy. Effective policy should also lay the basis for employee involvement, the setting of goals, action plans and policy review. Policies must be written in plain English so that, they are easily understood by employees. Regardless of organisation’s size, a written statement of health and safety policy demonstrates senior management’s determination to ensure high standards of health and safety.

A health and safety policy provides a vital means of support for managers, supervisors or employees if they are faced with a conflict between production demands and the demands of safety. Health and safety should not take second place. Preparing a policy, renewing and updating it in the light of experience and workplace changes allows the organisation to promote and maintain the momentum of the health and safety program in the workplace. The policy should demonstrate concern for the health and safety of employees, and most importantly, management commitment to translating that concern into effective action. All policies must be explained to employees through induction training, refresher training or toolbox talks, safety meetings etc.

Employers should provide their employees with handbooks or manuals containing workplace policies and procedures, which regulate such things

  • Use of company property.
  • Non-smoking at workplace.
  • Drug and alcohol use.
  • Occupational health and safety.
  • Anti-discrimination or equal employment opportunities.
  • Performance management and employee development etc.

Summary

Employers must ensure, in drafting their policies that they do not impose overly onerous obligations on the company that it may not, or cannot, comply with. This is particularly important where a policy is incorporated into an employee’s contract of employment.

 Up-to-date; well-drafted policies that have been effectively communicated to employees can be used by employers to defend unfair dismissal applications and vicarious liability claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment.