Health and Safety Policy and Legislation

05 February 2021

You are responsible for your employee’s health and safety when at work. Failing to do so will result in large fines and claims against your business.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 sets out the duties of employers on securing an improving the health of people in the workplace.

Part of an employer’s duty includes putting relevant paperwork in place like safety statements, risk assessments and a health and safety policy.

Here we will show you exactly what you need to have in place to ensure compliance and avoid costly fines.

Who needs a health and safety policy?

While technically speaking, putting a work health and safety policy is not a specific legal requirement for employers under the 2005 legislation, it is a useful way for employers to communicate their health and safety management measures to staff.

Employers have a duty to manage all work activities to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare of people at work. Putting a health and safety policy in place is a practical step employers can take towards complying with this duty.

Contents of a health and safety policy

Many policy documents begin by answering a question like what is a health and safety policy? A typical health and safety policy summary would set out a statement of general policy on health and safety before confirming that the policy is read in line with the organisation’s safety statement.

Health and safety responsibilities

The policy would then outline the responsibilities of both employers, management, and staff in relation to health and safety.

The employer can use the policy to set out their approach to issues like risk assessments, accident reporting and how staff can help with risk identification and management. The policy should deal with any health and safety issues that are specific to the workplace.

Manual handling is a health and safety issue in almost all workplaces for instance whereas hazardous substances and personal protective equipment will only feature in policies where those issues affect the organisation.

As every employer must develop a safety statement that reflects the specific risks affecting their organisation, drafting a general health and safety policy will not render a business compliant with the legislation.

Preparing a health and safety policy

As mentioned above, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 does not include a specific employer duty to develop a health and safety policy. Legislation dealing with health and safety in Ireland places the Safety Statement at the centre of the employer’s duty to maintain a safe place of work.

The key health and safety duty for employers is to have a written Safety Statement that is based on a hazard identification and risk assessment process. The 2005 legislation does not mention any specific health and safety policy requirements. The Safety Statement is the core document that specifies how employers manage and secure the safety, health, and welfare of all employees at work.

Bespoke approach required

As the legislation requires all health and safety documentation to be based on a risk identification and assessment process, it follows that there are no generic company health and safety policy examples that employers can use as templates. Each business will have its own specific risks and a generic policy is unlikely to capture the specific risks identified during a risk assessment.

Likewise, the risk assessment should be reviewed if there is a change to a risk or if there is reason to believe the risk is no longer valid. This is a key part of the employer’s duty under the 2005 legislation. For example, employers would have needed to review their risk assessments during the COVID-19 crisis.

There is no specific timeframe set out in the legislation to answer the question of how often should a health and safety policy be reviewed but employers or their safety officers should be mindful of any changes in the workplace that impact the risks to staff and other users of the premises.

Expert support on health and safety with Peninsula

It’s vital for employers to manage workplace risks to avoid costly health and safety claims. Strong policies and documentation play a key role in health and safety management.

Make sure to get external advice if the expertise doesn’t exist within your business.      

If you would like further complimentary advice from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time. Clients get access to our documentation team who can draft you risk assessments and policy.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0818 923 923 or request a call back here.

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