How to keep your workforce safe with policies and procedures
Keeping employees safe is a major focus for organisations. Health & safety is an absolute priority from an ethical, legal, compliance, operational and reputational standpoint. Related topics such as employee wellbeing are also now high up on the corporate agenda. A key pillar for ensuring health & safety is having the right policies and procedures in place so that all employees follow the right steps to prevent and limit any safety incidents.
Most organisations will have safety policies in place, but then struggle to keep them up to date or ensure that they are properly followed. In this article we’re going to discuss health & safety policies and procedures, the contribution they make to workforce safety, how to develop them, and also how to overcome some of the challenges so that policies are effective.
Why does every organisation need safety policies?
Health & safety is critical in the workplace. It is imperative that your organisation has policies that keep employees safe:
- It is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical standpoint.
- There are legal requirements around ensuring employees are safe with an employer having a particular duty of care around health & safety.
- Many industries will also have policies that must be adhered to keep customers and partners safe too.
- There may be additional regulatory requirements for particular sectors where safety is a clear issue.
- It ensures organisations can achieve any related certification that allows them to operate.
- Ensuring safety is critical to support a company’s brand and reputation – an unsafe workplace or perception that customer safety is not guaranteed can have a major impact on an organisation’s reputation.
- Supporting employee wellbeing supports a good employee experience helping to attract and retain talent, while also positively contributing to increased productivity.
- Ensuring safety avoids huge potential fines and other penalties, as well as the costs and disruption of legal action.
- Avoiding incidents minimises disruption to operations which can be significant if there is a safety issue which needs to be checked or monitored.
- Ensuring safety avoids higher insurance premiums caused by safety issues or lack of health & safety elements in place.
What are some of the top safety policies that need to be in place?
There are a number of common health & safety and wellbeing policies that are important for all organisations. However, some critical safety policies will differ from organisation to organisation and across industry sectors. Top safety policies include:
- Uniform or personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Operating machinery and equipment
- Maintenance of machinery and equipment
- Training and learning relating to health & safety and related processes
- Drugs & alcohol
- Wellbeing policy
- Ergonomics for office workers – both for on-site and at home
- Safety assessments for equipment
- Working hours
- Driving safely
- Working environment
- Incident reporting
- Fire procedures
- And many more!
Who is responsible for safety policies and procedures?
Different teams are usually responsible for different health & safety policies and procedures. These include:
- Health & Safety teams or functions
- Human resources
- Facilities and real estate
- Legal and compliance teams
- Frontline support
- And more.
Having multiple different policy owners can make it more challenging to ensure all health & safety policies are up to date.
What roles do policies and procedures play?
When it comes to health & safety, written policies that employees can easily find and access are critical. Policies play an important role in health and safety for several different reasons.
Provide absolute clarity on the detail
Many health & safety policies and procedures are very detailed with different paths to follow dependent on multiple circumstances. They tend to be mandatory and have no room for ambiguity. Policies provide absolute clarity on the detail, so everyone across the organisation knows what they need to do to ensure their own safety and the safety of others.
Training and onboarding
Policies are an essential reference point for training staff on safety matters and often play a part in onboarding new employees. Employees may need to get to know essential safety procedures before they can then fully carry out their role.
Essential reference point for incidents or extraordinary situations
For the vast majority of organisations, a health & safety incident will be relatively rare. However, sometimes these do occur or there can be an extraordinary situation – for example a weather event – where there is a heightened risk of an incident taking place. In these cases, employees may not necessarily know what to do and need to refer to a policy.
Satisfying regulators and other third parties
Having effective health & safety policies in place is the expectation of regulators and other relevant third parties such as certification authorities, insurers and even major customers. The relevant polices need to be in place and sometimes you may need demonstrate that this is the case, and even run attestation processes to show that employees have read and understand policies.
How do develop workplace safety policies
There are no hard and fast rules about how to develop health & safety policies but there are some good practices.
Ensure there Is clear ownership and responsibilities
To start with ensure that you have clarity around ownership of each policy and clear responsibilities relating to its creation, approval and making any changes.
Involve all the necessary stakeholders
Ensure that you involve all the business stakeholders who need to be involved in the creation and ongoing review of safety policies. Here a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) can be a helpful framework to think about which stakeholders to include. It’s also important to include any legal and regulatory compliance experts to make any necessary reviews.
Be consultative and involve employees
Ideally, policy creation should involve employees and incorporate their feedback. This can provide extremely valuable input that can help support the real-world implementation of policies and also support change management.
Ensure the policy is clear and understood
Health & safety policies must be written clearly and understood. Where possible they may also need to be translated. A policy should be written with the audience in mind, and may require additional guidance. Asking employees to review a policy before it is launched can help get suggestions to make it clearer. Running an employee attestation process can also produce insights into making further improvements.
Have change controls and review processes in place
Policies will need to be reviewed and changed, either due to some kind of trigger or event such as a change in the regulatory environment, or as part of a regular review cycle. It’s important to have a clear change control and review process in place.
The challenges of implementing safety policies and how policy management software helps
There are a number of challenges in implementing safety policies. Here, policy management software like Xoralia can make a difference.
Accessing policies and procedures
One of the major problems in policy management is establishing straightforward access to the actual policies so that they are easy to find. Sometimes all employees may have access, but actually policies are scattered across different pages of the intranet. At other times not all employees will have access - for example, frontline employees may not actually be able to reach all the policies they need to refer to.
A policy management solution like Xoralia can help by establishing a central library where all safety policies live and can be easily filtered and searched.
All too often there are multiple versions of the same policy in circulation, with earlier versions that have been superseded still being referred to. Policy management software helps establish version control with only the latest and up-to-date policy document being displayed. Because employees also know they can always find the latest version in the central policy library, they also don’t save versions on their local drives which leads to there being multiple versions in circulation.
Keeping policies up to date
One major challenge around policy management is ensuring that policy owners keep their individual policies up to date. Policy management software establishes clear ownership and uses automated notifications and workflow features to make it easier for policy owners to ensure their documents are always fully up to date.
Employees don’t always trust that the policies that they have are up to date or the very latest versions. This encourages bad habits such as people emailing policy owners for the latest version. Because policy management software can provide a central library of policies that are all up to date and easy to find, it can restore employee trust in the policies they access.
Employee attestation is the key process that supports the dissemination of policies. Here, employees confirm they have read and understood policies, and reporting can track success and even provide evidence for compliance reasons. Policy management software will do all the heavy lifting on the employee attestation process and can even include additional features such as quizzes to test that employees have understood a policy.
Making changes and updates
Safety policies will need to be updated at regular intervals. Sometimes it will be necessary to let employees know about the change, but this can be very difficult to achieve successfully. Policy management software can use features such as personalisation, automated reminders and employee attestation to ensure employees are updated and have understood changes.
Onboarding and annual recurring policies
Employees need to know about safety policies and procedures as part of their onboarding. Some will also need to read policies each year as part of a recurring process. Organising both of these takes a huge administrative effort and doing so manually is highly inefficient. A policy management solution like Xoralia can automate much of the onboarding process relating to policies, as well as automate a , a recurring annual policy process.
Xoralia is a leading policy management software solution that can support more effective management of your health and safety policies. It includes all the features mentioned in this article including a central policy library, employee attestation and more.
If you would like to find out more about Xoralia, why not book a free demo?