This week we are going to look at Writing an OHS Policy Statement.
Why should we have one? What is a policy? and What should it cover?
These three questions are often asked by new Health and Safety Managers.
Let's' go over the basics, and if you have ideas and thoughts to add as a seasoned veteran then it would be great to hear them.
Why should we have one?
The occupational health and safety (OHS) policy is really the starting point to outline everything your organizations wants to achieve in OHS; goals, objectives, strategy and tactics all emerge from a well written OHS policy statement.
It is important to take the time and effort to have a written occupational health and safety policy because it helps to:
(1) promote your OHS program philosophy,
(2) clearly communicates your organizations OHS goals,
(3) create a formal commitment for the organization to protect their employee's
(3) set behavioral and conduct expectations, in legally binding contractual document, between the workforce and management, and
(4) maintain compliance with regional OHS legislation that require the development and posting of an OHS policy.
These are just a few point on why it is wise to create a OHS policy, it would be great if other members could take a moment to add to the list.
What is a policy?
A policy is a "plan of action" you will take to achieve your OHS goals and objectives. This is your outline of the methods and actions you and your teams have deliberately agreed, and chosen, to guide and influence any future decisions about OHS in your organization.
It is a document that outlines the organizational principals and rules to help guide OHS planning, programs behaviors and actions. The statement also clearly indicates the employers commitment to Health and safety of their employees.
What Makes an effective policy statement?
An effective policy must always involve senior management and employee representatives in the preparation of the policy. It should be consistent with the workplace's objectives, and allow for operating in an safe, efficient and predictable manner. It needs to be relevant to the workplace's needs, so do not try to adopt one from another workplace. Also very important, and often lost over time, is the OHS policy being accepted as equally important in comparison to any other workplace policies and objectives.
What should it cover?
You policy statement should give a clear message of your company's objectives and plans for OHS.
Here are some items to cover in your statement that CCOHS suggests:
- senior management's commitment to the establishment of a healthy and safe workplace and to the integration of health and safety into all workplace activities,
- the intention to treat basic safety and health legislation as a minimum standard rather than maximum,
- responsibility of all personnel in maintaining a safe workplace,
- accountability of all levels of management for carrying out health and safety responsibilities,
- importance of consultation and co-operation between management and employees for effective implementation of policy,
- commitment to regular reviews of the policy and to monitor its effectiveness, and
- commitment to provide adequate funds and details of how money will be available.
Your policy should reflect the special needs of your workplace, and be regularly reviewed and updated. It is also important to have it signed by a senior manager or president to demonstrate the organizations commitment to health and safety.
Who should write the policy?
The best policies are specific to a workplace and not borrowed from or written by outsiders. An employer may delegate the preparation of a policy to a staff member. However the written occupational health and safety policy statement is a pledge to employees and therefore the employer is mainly responsible for content. The safety policy should be dated and signed by the senior executive of workplace.
An example of a health and safety policy follows:
Health and Safety Policy
The employer and senior management of ________________are vitally interested in the health and safety of its workers. Protection of workers from injury or occupational disease is a major continuing objective.
________________will make every effort to provide a safe, healthy work environment. All employers, supervisors and workers must be dedicated to the continuing objective of reducing risk of injury.
________________ as employer, is ultimately responsible for worker health and safety. As president (or owner/operator, chairperson, chief executive officer, etc.) of ________________, I give you my personal commitment that I will comply with my duties under the Act, such as taking every reasonable precaution for the protection of workers in the workplace.
Supervisors will be held accountable for the health and safety of workers under their supervision. Supervisors are subject to various duties in the workplace, including the duty to ensure that machinery and equipment are safe and that workers work in compliance with established safe work practices and procedures.
Every worker must protect his or her own health and safety by working in compliance with the law and with safe work practices and procedures established by the employer. Workers will receive information, training and competent supervision in their specific work tasks to protect their health and safety.
It is in the best interest of all parties to consider health and safety in every activity. Commitment to health and safety must form an integral part of this organization, from the president to the workers.