How To Write A Health And Safety Policy

Ensuring the well-being of your employees is more than good business, safeguarding health and safety is expected.

No matter the size of a company, it will need to have certain procedures or guidelines in place to make sure that accidents are prevented during the course of day-to-day business.

It is good practice to record all of these details in a health and safety policy document.

This is one of the key documents that organizations should have readily available when looking to comply with ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management (CIMS) standard and certification.

Policy Definition And Purpose

A health and safety policy contains an organization’s vision and general policy on health and safety at work, as well as information about how the organization puts the policy into action.

The policy demonstrates an organization’s commitment to health and safety, risk management and compliance with laws and regulations.

A well-composed health and safety policy will show how the organization protects those who could be affected by its activities.

It is a document tailored to each organization, specifically describing who does what, when and how.

Policy Preparation

An organization’s health and safety policy will be unique to each organization.

Before putting together the policy document, organizations need to think about specific issues related to its business.

Cleaning organizations should consider whether or not employees use machinery — floor machines or vacuums, as examples — deal with food-contact surfaces or use hazardous chemicals.

Environment, health and safety staffs, if applicable, as well as cleaning personnel have a role in putting the policy together.

Cleaning staffs can bring their day-to-day experience of the job to the table, and their involvement will only drive their motivation and commitment to following the terms of the policy in their job.

There might be other management team members or employees that organizations will want to include in policy development.

In this case, an organizational chart may be necessary to help illustrate the different levels of responsibility of each person from top management down to frontline cleaning workers.

Finally, organizations must conduct a risk assessment and then show how the organization will control identified risks.

The health and safety policy should address the significant findings of the risk assessment and identify the groups of employees at risk.

Policy Content

The content of health and safety policies is generally organized in three parts:

  1. A statement of commitment
  2. A description of responsibilities and who handles them
  3. How the organization will reduce risks.
  • Statement of commitment

A health and safety policy should include a simple statement of the organization’s overall commitment to health and safety.

U.S. organizations should also indicate their commitment to working with federal and state regulatory bodies such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The statement is typically about one page in length and is signed and dated by the most senior person in the organization.

It should explain the organization’s commitment to ensuring the health and safety of employees, customers and any other necessary groups in contact with the organization.

The statement identifies specific levels of responsibility within the organization in regard to health and safety, also describing what arrangements will be made to support the policy.

It should state that employees are responsible for their own health and safety, but the organization pledges to provide a safe work environment, including safe equipment and procedures.

  • Description of responsibilities

The second component of a health and safety policy identifies who will manage risk assessments, conduct inspections and ensure safety.

Larger organizations may need diagrams or charts to show responsibilities of managers, supervisors and other employees.

  • How the organization will reduce risks

A risk assessment will show that an organization has assessed risks and then followed through by addressing the risk and considering those who might be affected.

The organization must illustrate how it has dealt with significant hazards, prove that the precautions are reasonable and show that the remaining risk is low.

It might be helpful for the organization to reference other documents such as manuals, company guidelines, manufacturer instructions and fire safety regulations.

A document such as a spreadsheet can help in organizing specific tasks along with the names and exact responsibility of each person or group of people.

The document should also include training information and emergency procedures such as those followed during a fire, which evacuation routes to take and who is responsible for managing training and checks.

Organizations should ensure the information is easy to understand for employees at all levels of the organization and translated if necessary.

Policy Communication And Review

Once a health and safety policy is complete, organizations must ensure that employees read and understand it.

Ask senior management to communicate their commitment to the policy and cascade the document through the organization.

It is important that senior leaders ask employees for their support and let employees know that eliminating hazards on the job is a personal responsibility for everyone.

Finally, organizations should discuss and review the policy annually.

Risks change as organizations purchase new equipment or change cleaning procedures; revisiting the policy will help keep health and safety a priority for everyone in the organization.

Posted On November 21, 2012

Dave Frank

President of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences (AICS)

Dave Frank is president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences (AICS), an independent third-party accreditation organization that establishes standards to improve the professional performance of the cleaning industry. With more than 35 years of experience, Frank is a leading authority in the industry. He can be reached at [email protected].

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