Health & safety policy

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Every business must comply with health and safety laws - regardless of their trade or industry.

One legal requirement all employers must follow is presenting a health & safety policy. This policy helps you protect employees on a daily basis. And minimises the potential risk of work-related injuries and poor work standards.

If you ignore health and safety laws, you could face serious negligence claims. This could lead to unlimited compensation, business closure, and even imprisonment.

In this guide, we'll look at what a health & safety policy is, what the law covers, and how to create one for your workplace.

What is a health & safety policy?

A health & safety policy is a statement that shows your business's commitment towards managing health and safety at work.

This specific responsibility doesn't just apply to employees. It also covers customers, clients, and the public.

A health & safety policy sets out what employees are responsible for during work. It also shows how employers aim to reduce risks, hazards, and accidents related to business activities.

For health and safety procedures to be effective, they need to be properly managed. If it's done well, employers face fewer safety risks, negligence claims, and financial impacts.

What is the law on health & safety policies?

Two of the main legislations every health & safety policy must comply with are:

The Health and Safety at Work 1974 (HSWA): This act states an employer's legal requirement to write the policy.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR): This act explains the steps on managing health and safety.

The laws outline an employer's legal obligation when it comes to managing safe working standards. A good policy will show ways to review your work methods to help reduce health and safety risks.

Under health and safety law, a health & safety policy needs to include three sections:

  • A statement of intent: This statement outlines what your aims and objectives are when it comes to health and safety matters.
  • Workplace responsibilities: These states who is responsible for health and safety. And what their duties are when it comes to work activities.
  • Arrangements section: This shows methods and procedures used to manage workplace risks and hazards.

If the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authorities visit your business, they'll ask to see your policy. They'll review your safety commitments and determine whether they're being followed.

In some cases, you could be prosecuted for not having a written health & safety policy if it’s legally required. This means you could be prosecuted if you don’t have one in place. The HSE may have additional concerns and decide to escalate this to court.

If an employer isn’t managing health and safety responsibilities properly, it could be seen as negligence. Judicial courts may enforce penalties, like monetary fines, business closure, and even imprisonment.

Do you need to have a health & safety policy in place?

Under employment law, if you hire five or more employees, you must have a written health & safety policy in place. This is regardless of whether they're full-time, temporary, or seasonal workers.

If you hire fewer than five employees, it's not a legal requirement to have a written policy. But employers still must comply with health and safety law; and be able to demonstrate how they do so.

All employees should have access to your health & safety policy. That way, they're aware of what their legal responsibilities are, as well as the business's.

Who is responsible for health & safety policies?

Businesses must appoint a 'responsible' person to manage a health & safety policy.

The person should have appropriate health and safety training, knowledge, and capability to manage this duty.

This person could be the employer themselves; or an employee who's been appointed to this role. Some businesses will hire an external health and safety officer to manage it on business's behalf.

Whoever the responsible person is, they should understand the importance of health and safety performance. They should also have the authority to implement the health & safety policy during regular working days.

How to manage a health & safety policy

It's important to take reasonable care when creating a health & safety policy.

Employers need to outline the right methods, responsible people, and legal rules. That way, you'll be able to keep your employees safe, and your business safer.

Let's look at ways on managing health & safety policies for your workplace:

Section One: Statement of intent

Employers need to start with creating the health & safety policy 'statement of intent'.

The statement of intent presents how a business aims to manage health and safety requirements. It also shows a general approach to your safety objectives and aims.

For example, your statement of intent may include the following:

  • Find work hazards and control risks linked to them.
  • Comply with health and safety laws. For example, using safe systems of work (SSoW) or providing safety equipment.
  • Manage health and safety legal requirements. For example, doing risk assessments or mapping out emergency procedures).
  • Ensure employees know how to work safely. For example, protecting their own health, as well as colleagues and non-employees.
  • Consult employees about relevant health and safety issues. For example, through safety committee meetings.

When writing a statement of intent, employers need to make sure it's clear and easily understood. Remember to display it where employees have easy access to it, like a staff notice board.

Section Two: Workplace responsibilities

The second part of your policy outlines who's responsible for health and safety procedures.

Set out the names, positions, and duties of those who have specific responsibility towards health and safety at work.

This is usually presented through a workplace chart or diagram, showing a hierarchy of responsibility. For example, employers, managers, and safety advisors. This may be more suitable for larger businesses. In smaller companies, a written list should be enough.

When you outline your safety team's responsibilities, make sure they don't overlap. This could lead to confusion on who's responsible for managing health and safety rules in specific areas.

Section Three: Arrangements section

The last part of your policy statement is your arrangements section.

This section highlights what measures are in place that help manage health and safety performance. They also show how risks are controlled during everyday business activities.

In the arrangements section, employers can present specific details on:

  • Reporting work accidents and ill-health: For example, sending HSE your risk assessment after a serious work-related injury.
  • Providing staff training: For example, providing new first aid training to your first aiders.
  • Using risk assessments: For example, complying with COSHH to control hazardous substances.
  • Creating safe work conditions: For example, using PPE or manual handling procedures).
  • Improving workplace environments: For example, having adequate lighting, heating, and ventilation).

Your arrangements section should also be specific to your business. Avoid copying what other businesses use in their policy. Go through your activities and provide staff with suitable instruction, training, and supervision.

How often should a health & safety policy be reviewed?

There is no legal requirement on how often a health & safety policy should be reviewed.

The HSE recommends doing an annual review on your health & safety policy. It's also best practice to review policies after serious accidents and injuries.

There are several situations where you should consider reviewing a health & safety policy. For example, when:

  • The company made significant changes.
  • Health and safety laws have just been passed or newly amended.
  • You have new working conditions or equipment.
  • Risk assessments or investigations find policy breaches.
  • Manufacturers provide new or emergency information about their equipment.
  • The HSE or local authorities have enforced an external health and safety audit.
  • A sufficient period of time has passed since the last review.

By updating your health & safety policies, you can keep legally compliant and minimise every potential risk linked to your business.

Get expert advice on managing health & safety policies with Peninsula

All businesses must comply with health and safety laws. Employers must protect the health, safety and welfare of anyone who may be affected by your business.

If you breach your health & safety policy, you could end up facing serious costs. Like injuring people, business closure, and potential imprisonment.

Peninsula offers expert advice on managing your health & safety policy. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment services which are available 365 days a year.

Want more information on your health & safety policy? Seek specialist advice from one of our HR advisors. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 051 3684

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