Are you aware of all the implications of H&S legislation for your business?
“Complacency when it comes to safety may be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.”
Would you play a game of football or a board game without first understanding the rules?
Your answer is likely to be ‘No!’ as the lack of rules would create confusion and increase the probability of failure.
So, with this in mind, why do companies continue to operate without ensuring company policies and procedures are fully understood by all their staff?
Why are company policies so important?
Policies are the backbone of compliance. They’re your company’s rules; they detail your commitment to health and safety (H&S) and lay out compliance and measurements. They can also assist in business success.
In addition, policies provide the essential information your staff, contractors and others need to stay within the constraints of the law.
Can you prove each employee has read and fully understood your company policies?
As a company director, can you successfully prove both of the following:
• you have the company policies required by law in place
• each and every one of your employees and all other people, who are under your duty of care according to the Health and Safety at Work legislation (section 3), have fully read and understood each document?
Although you may have all the policies relevant to your business in place, in date and in operation, it may be much more difficult for you to prove that all your employees (and others under your duty of care) have personally read and fully understood these policies…and that doesn’t mean just signing the last page of a document on their first week of employment.
All businesses, no matter what their size, are not necessarily uninformed about what’s required of them by law. They may simply be unaware of the importance of getting health and safety information written down and understood by all.
Is it a good idea to buy an H&S package?
According to our estimates, 70 per cent of companies buy in H&S packages that meet the minimum legal requirements, because this is obviously the easiest thing to do.
Many bought-in packages are created generically (by changing the logo and company name in the documents). These provide each company with a standard H&S package, which allows them to tick the ‘health and safety policy in place’ box!
What do you do with your H&S policy?
A further problem then arises, because these documents tend to sit on file, stay housed in filing cabinets or stored electronically on a server.
They are rarely disseminated directly to the workers, although it’s compulsory to do so. Furthermore, the documents are not updated in line with the company’s growth and expansion and the feedback of employees is not used to improve them.
So, it’s likely that very few companies have the correct policies, procedures and standards in place and can provide evidence that the documents have been fully read and understood by all employees and other people affected by the company’s operations.
Are you sure your H&S documents include everything that is required by law?
Your health and safety policy should acknowledge how your company accepts its statutory responsibility under the terms of the Health & Safety at Work Act for securing the health, safety and welfare of all its employees.
The policy should go on to detail how the company will take steps, so far as is reasonably practicable, to meets its health and safety responsibilities.
Do you actively involve the people who work within your company when creating or updating H&S policy?
In order to construct an effective H&S policy, your company needs to ensure effective consultation and communication between all of the following:
- the person responsible for Health & Safety,
- the company’s external Health & Safety advisors, and:
- its employees, contractors and other people for whom it has a duty of care.
People work better when they know where they stand and know their employer cares.
Unfortunately, certificates confirming that your policies and procedures are in place and have been audited are not enough under the law. Spoken instructions to your employees and contractors are also insufficient.
Some of the accreditations and affiliations you have worked hard to achieve and paid extensively for, will most certainly check that documents are in place, that they have the necessary revision records and that the statutory responsibility statements are included.
However, H&S auditors very rarely speak with each employee and contractor to ascertain if they have read and fully understood your company’s H&S policies and follow their content.
But does this matter if you have the audit certificate?
When a dispute arises, you will turn to your company policies and use these documents for the purpose they were designed: securing the health, safety and welfare of all your employees.
However, if you, as the person with the duty of care, cannot prove your employees and or contractors have actually read and completely understood your policies and procedures, then not only are you slipping towards losing at a tribunal, you are also at risk of failing to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Health and safety is a necessity for everyone who owns or runs a business. It’s imperative that your employees and contractors work within a healthy and safe workplace.
Accidents and unsafe conditions can land you in court and today’s fines are based on risk not harm and amplified by your company’s turnover (not profit). See this article for more information on the new sentencing guidelines: http://yoursafetypal.com/2016/06/06/much-know-new-sentencing-guidelines/
How can Safety PAL help?
Safety PAL’s unique document management algorithm allows you to fulfil all your legal H&S obligations easily and effectively by:
• giving your company the ability to get all your essential documents in front of every employee and all other people affected by your operations,
• enabling your team to send and receive filtered external Safety Alerts.
These safety alerts to and from other businesses and industries provide all readers with the steps to action change, so you can prevent a serious or fatal injury in your organisation.
For more information, see:
I truly hope this article makes a difference to your business, as helping others is a fundamental part of humanity.
Please take a look at our other articles which highlight the importance of ensuring your business is completely compliant with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: