Why have a policy
A policy shows you’re serious about people’s safety: about preventing work-related injury and illness. It puts this commitment down on paper and out in your workplace once you display it on walls and noticeboards.
Even if you have a small business and employ only a handful of workers, you can’t afford to assume everyone knows what’s required with health and safety.
You should also never assume that safety is ‘common sense’ — a workplace that relies solely on ‘common sense’ is likely to be unsafe.
What your policy should contain
Your policy should state the responsibilities of everyone and set the rules and standards you expect everyone to follow. This reinforces the message that although you as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) have a responsibility for safety, everyone else is responsible too.
You can delegate health and safety tasks to others — such as your managers, supervisors, and health and safety committee members — but as the PCBU you still have overall responsibility for work health and safety.
State what management will do
Your policy should start with a statement about your overall safety goal or aim, for example: ‘We will provide a workplace free from risks’ or ‘We aim to reduce our injury rates’.
It’s important to then state how you’ll do those things.
What are the practical things your managers, supervisors and the PCBU will be responsible for to manage WHS?
Your policy should include your commitment to:
- providing/maintaining a work environment free from risks to health and safety
- providing/maintaining safe equipment, structures and safe systems of work
- ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of equipment, structures and substances
- providing adequate facilities for the welfare of workers (for example, toilets and tea rooms)
- providing any information, training, instruction or supervision that’s necessary to protect people from risks to their health and safety arising from work activities
- making sure that the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored in order to prevent illness or injury
- consulting with workers on all matters relating to work health and safety.
State what workers will do
Workers have rights and responsibilities, so state the rules and standards you expect them to follow:
- take reasonable care for their own health and safety
- take reasonable care that what they do (or what they don’t do) doesn’t adversely affect the health and safety of other people
- comply (so far as they are reasonably able to) with any reasonable instruction given by management
- co-operate with any reasonable policy or procedure for work health and safety that has been communicated to them (you may want to mention the safe work procedures you have in place)
- not misuse or interfere with anything provided for work health and safety
- report all incidents and near misses immediately, no matter how trivial
- engage in consultation with management to identify, assess and control hazards and the effectiveness of such controls
- report all known or observed hazards to their supervisor or manager.
Involve your workers as you develop your policy so it becomes a shared commitment to health and safety.
Other matters to consider
- Note or refer to your risk management process. Does your policy reflect the nature of your workplace activities and scale of safety risks you have?
- List any Australian Standards and laws other than the work health and safety act and regulations that you need to comply with
- Include any measurable safety targets you’re working towards, or specific safety issues you want to address as an organisation
- Define the consultation process you have to ensure all your workers are included in decision making for safety. List how you’ll provide safety information to your workers, contractors and visitors
- Explain how you’ll implement your policy
- Make sure the policy is supported and signed off at the highest level; for example, the managing director or chief executive officer.
Communicate your policy
Once you’ve developed your policy, display it prominently.
Tell everyone about it so they know what they should expect and what is expected of them:
- go through it at a staff or toolbox meeting
- include it in inductions for new workers.
Review your policy regularly (at least once a year) to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
Why have safe work procedures
Safe work procedures are a practical and consistent way for everyone to commit to safety. They clearly:
- document the sequence of steps for doing the task safely
- incorporate the appropriate risk control measures into those steps.
When trained how to use a safe work procedure, everyone in your workplace will know the safe way to do their job, and will work the same way. They won’t need to guess or make things up as they go along.
It’s important that your safe work procedures are specific to the work tasks, equipment and chemicals in your workplace — and if necessary, each worksite in your organisation.
This is especially important when/where:
- your procedures are for activities that carry risk: such as construction work or the use of hazardous chemicals
- your work tasks are complex or detailed
- you have specific requirements for emergency procedures
- there are specific certification/licensing requirements for workers using certain equipment or performing certain processes/tasks.
What to include
- A description of the activity/process
- The person or position who is responsible for supervising the activity/process (if you use a person’s name, make sure you update the procedure if that person leaves or is no longer responsible for supervising)
- A step-by-step explanation of the stages that make up the activity/process, from beginning to end
- An explanation of the potential hazards and safety controls needed to reduce potential risk
- Any other safety precautions to be taken while performing the activity/ process.
Consult with your workers
Don’t underestimate your workers’ input: they often have first-hand knowledge, experience and ideas about how to reduce safety risks, make improvements and find solutions.
Look at information from manufacturers, suppliers, operator’s manuals and relevant codes of practice.