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Your business should have clearly stated health and safety policies and procedures that are designed to keep workers safe at your workplace while meeting your legal obligations.

Health and safety policies are the documented principles, objectives, obligations and commitments that guide health and safety decision-making within a business.

Health and safety procedures are the documented processes that guide your working practices. They include specific procedures that set out step-by-step instructions for carrying out a job or task.

Health and safety policies are essential for your workplace because they:

  • demonstrate that your business is addressing its health and safety obligations;
  • show that your business is committed to working within a set of health and safety principles;
  • clarify functions and responsibilities in your business; and
  • help you manage workers more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Why do you need health and safety policies?

The development and implementation of policies dealing with workplace health and safety is a critical aspect of your business’s compliance with health and safety legislation.

If a health and safety inspector attends your workplace in response to a reported health and safety issue, they will always ask you to provide a copy of the business’s workplace health and safety policy.

The type of health and safety policies you adopt will depend on the size and nature of your business, but most workplaces should have the following policies in place:

  • workplace health and safety policy;
  • drug and alcohol policy;
  • workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment policies; and
  • smoke-free workplace policy.

Each policy should at least clearly state the following:

  • the effect or purpose of the policy and the scope of activities that the policy covers;
  • who the policy applies to – be specific;
  • any other policies or procedures that relate to the policy;
  • what will happen if there is a breach of the policy – set out the disciplinary action or performance management procedures a worker may face for unacceptable behaviour under the terms of the policy;
  • who a worker should speak to if they have any queries about the policy – name any contact officer responsible for handling complaints and enquiries;
  • the person authorising the development of the policy; and
  • any legitimate circumstances when it may not be possible to follow the policy and the appropriate response to such circumstances.

Health and safety procedures

Health and safety procedures are beneficial because they:

  • ensure that safe systems of work are recorded, communicated to workers and implemented in a consistent way throughout the business;
  • are more effective in guiding the future action of workers than an ad hoc or informal approach; and
  • save time by allowing health and safety matters to be handled quickly through an existing procedure, rather than staff dealing with problems as they occur or responding differently each time the same issues arise.

7 procedures your business should have in place:

  1. Safety planning and objectives procedures.
  2. Communication and consultation procedure.
  3. Hazards identification procedure.
  4. Risk assessment procedure.
  5. Risk control procedures.
  6. Performance monitoring and review procedures.
  7. Safety management procedure.

You may also want to include:

  • incident investigation and reporting procedure;
  • chemical management procedures;
  • electrical equipment procedures;
  • emergency response procedures, e.g. fire, bomb, natural disaster, etc;
  • employee safety training and induction procedures;
  • fatigue management procedure;
  • mobile equipment safety procedures, e.g. forklifts;

What procedures do you need in your workplace?

  • working at heights procedure;
  • confined space entry procedure;
  • change management procedure;
  • manual handling procedure;
  • noise control procedure;
  • return to work procedure;
  • working with hazardous substances procedures, e.g. asbestos; and
  • workplace safety inspections and audits

Of course, not all of these procedures will be necessary for your workplace. Alternatively, you may require other procedures for health and safety issues that are specific to your business. Professional, third party advice may be required to identify and assist in the development of appropriate procedures for your workplace.

Many procedures may also require paperwork to be completed. For example, an incident investigation and reporting procedure requires making incident report forms available to workers if a health and safety incident occurs.

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