Why should I have an occupational health and safety (OHS) policy statement?
Canadian health and safety legislation requires employers to have a health and safety program in their workplace. This is where a written occupational health and safety policy helps to promote an effective OHS program.
Such an OHS policy should aim to reflect the specific needs of your workplace, communicate a commitment to health and safety, and should be regularly reviewed and updated. It should be signed by a senior manager or president to further show your dedication to health and safety.
4 things that make a policy statement effective?
There are many varieties in how corporate policies deliver their content, yet the style is not as important as the clarity with which they communicate functional responsibilities over authority. For a policy statement to be effective, it should:
- involve senior management and relevant representatives in the preparation of the policy
- be aligned with the workplace’s objectives of operating in an efficient manner
- be relevant to the environment, scale and OHS hazards and risk associated with your unique workplace needs
- be accepted as an equally important part in addition to your other workplace policies and objectives
What should be considered when writing the policy?
There are a number of points to consider when writing your OHS policy, and some questions you can ask yourself in preparation:
- What is the goal of the safety program; to have fewer injuries and illnesses than similar operations?
- When confronted with conflicting priorities or allocation of limited resources, does safety get more importance?
- Is safety the responsibility of line management or staff management; who is accountable?
- What benefits does management expect to derive from an effective program?
- Who will be assigned responsibility for coordinating activities?
How can the policy be incorporated into regular workplace duties and action?
Methods of establishing accountability should be designed to monitor the quality and adequacy of workplace procedures. These include the:
- inclusion of accountability in the statement of policy
- inclusion of health and safety responsibilities and performance objectives in job descriptions
- procedures for ensuring that health and health performance is considered as part of performance appraisals and salary reviews
- regular health and safety program reviews
- regular reporting requirements built into program elements
Part of a successful policy is making sure that all employees are aware of it. If the workplace’s plan for implementing the policy is a good one, employees will be reminded in their daily activities, safety meetings, and during orientation and training.
What are some suggestions for implementing the policy?
To implement this policy, health and safety activities must be identified and assigned. While each workplace will do this in its own way, there are some key points which should be addressed, including:
- The policy should state that the workplace has clear rules for healthy and safe work behaviour, and clarify who is responsible for developing, observing, and enforcing the rules
- There should be clear guidelines for maintaining and operating equipment and machinery
- The policy should state what type of training program will be provided by the company to ensure that employees can meet their responsibilities. This learning could include first-day orientation, on-the-job training, and refresher courses
- The means for providing employees with information about basic or specific workplace hazards, and detailed written procedures for hazardous jobs should be outlined
- Regular worksite health and safety meetings at all levels of the organization are an essential part of a good safety program, and should identify what issues will be discussed at these meetings, what can be communicated verbally, and what should be in writing
Each workplace will undoubtedly have its own way of keeping its employees informed. The important thing is to have a plan and to follow through on it.
For more information, you can visit the OSHA website >
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Guide tips by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)