Do Health and Safety Policies and Procedures need to be formally documented for businesses to be protected under Work Health and Safety Laws?

If an organization has a large number of employees then it needs to have documented health and safety policy and procedures. This policy and procedures must include guidelines for management and workers to follow, along with explaining safety expectations for management and workers to follow. The work health and safety legislation in all states across Australia clearly requires employers to document their safety expectations, policies and procedures and provide evidence of information, instruction and training to their staff.

Having established the necessity of develop company policies and procedures, companies are encouraged to consult with their people to obtain their input and view point on some of the safety issues that affect them within the workplace. In order to make your policy functional, you must, first of all, lay the groundwork by following the following steps:

  • Consult with your workers through mechanisms such as meetings, toolbox talks, WHS Committee meetings or informal talks with staff to obtain their buy in on the development of the policies and procedures to be developed.
  • Your organization must create a standardization of your operating procedures. Such standardized way of operation leaves room for little error and hence increases the overall safety of all employees by ensuring that all work is delivered safely with quality outcomes.
  • After creating a standardized procedure, your next task is to communicate it with relevant entities, such as employees, contractors, visitors, etc.
  • Furthermore, you must ensure that your communication regarding the standard operating procedures and policies and procedures developed has been clearly understood by all the communicated entities. Workplaces and employers will often obtain sign-off or acknowledgement from staff that the information has been disseminated or absorbed by the workforce.

By implementing a standard operating procedure, you will also make the process of record-keeping much easier and accurate. This record will not be your formal policy but it will be a proof of steps you have regularly taken to successfully implement your occupational health & safety policy, procedures and training.

No matter whether you are a small or a large organization, a formal occupational health & safety policies and procedures can be very beneficial in terms of business protection, should a workplace accident occur. Some of the benefits of such a formally documented policy and procedures in the form of a WHS Management System are:

  • Ensure people in the workplace go home safely to their families
  • Ensure duty officers are protected from $600,000 in fines / or 5 years imprisonment / manslaughter charges
  • Protect the company’s reputation and workers compensation premiums with insurance companies
  • It will help you in bringing employees from all hierarchical levels together and work towards a common goal of achieving better health and safety standards.
  • It will completely remove all ambiguities related to health and safety issues.
  • It will help in maintaining the health and safety policy even if staff replacement has taken place.
  • There are many companies who do business with companies only if they have a WHS management system in place. By formally submitting your policy and procedures, you’ll have the opportunity to work with larger companies and obtain larger contracts.

Summary: For a small company, there is an increasing need for formally documented health and safety procedures while for a big or a medium sized company there is more of an emphasis on safety culture and reflected safety behaviour within the workplace. The expectation is far greater than documented policies and procedures.

Resource Box: Benchmark OHS Consulting Pty Ltd. has been helping organizations of various sizes for more than 13 years. They have an expertise in providing WHS consulting, WHS training, online integrated management systems and drone inspection services.