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Canadian health and safety legislation requires employers to have a health and safety program in their workplace. A written occupational health and safety policy helps promote an effective OHS program. Such a policy should reflect the special needs of your workplace and should be regularly reviewed and updated. This document will assist you in writing and applying a policy for your workplace. This policy communicates a commitment to health and safety. It should be signed by a senior manager or president to further demonstrate the commitment to health and safety.
CSA Standard Z1000-14 Occupational Health and Safety Management defines an OHS policy as “overall intentions and direction of an organization related to its OHS performance.”
The Gage dictionary defines “policy” as “a plan of action; a course or method of action that has been deliberately chosen and that guides or influences future decisions.” By stating principles and rules, an occupational health and safety policy guides actions. A policy statement indicates the degree of an employer's commitment to health and safety. The statement of the employers' obligation should be more than an outline of legal duties.
There are many differences in form and content of corporate policies. Their style, however, is not as important as the clarity with which they identify functional responsibilities over authority.
To be effective, a policy must:
The policy statement should provide a clear indication of the company's objectives and plans for occupational health and safety. The following issues should be covered in the statement:
The best policies are specific to a workplace and reflect the nature, scale and OHS hazards and risk for that workplace. An employer may delegate the preparation of a policy to a staff member. The policy should be written in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative, or with workers or their representatives. However the written occupational health and safety policy statement is a pledge to employees and therefore the employer is responsible for content. The safety policy should be dated and signed by the senior executive of workplace.
These are some of the major items to consider.
The following are questions that need to be considered for preparation of a policy:
No matter how well written, a policy is no more than empty words if a plan does not exist to put the policy into effect throughout the organization. The policy can only be put into effect where:
While the assignment of responsibilities must be a complete list customized to your type of work and organizational structure, avoid being too specific that it makes people become to legalistic in interpreting the policy. For example, do not list the specific type of personal protective equipment that must be worn by an employee - simply state that all employees must use the personal protective equipment specified by the employer and as required by the nature of the work. This way you have flexibility to make changes as circumstances warrant.
Responsibility should be extended throughout the organizational structure to ensure policy objectives will become integrated into all activities. For example, a policy could specify:
Methods of establishing accountability should be designed to monitor the quality and adequacy of workplace procedures, including:
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 day-to-day activities, in safety meetings, and during orientation and training.
A responsibility to adhere to the health and safety policy may be part of the employees' job descriptions. Each employee, on beginning employment, may be given a copy of the policy and informed that it is a condition of employment to follow the policy.
The workplace can reinforce its commitment to the policy by having regular safety talks, posting signs at the workplace, by writing articles about the policy in company newsletters, posting on the internal website, sending e-mails, by referring to it in job manuals and so forth.
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.
An effective policy for health and safety management must be:
Ways in which policy and responsibilities can be communicated include:
To implement a policy, health and safety activities must be identified and assigned. While each workplace will do this in its own way, there are some general issues which should be addressed:
Here is a sample of a series of questions that could be put in "Yes / No" checklist:
Individuals have a responsibility to carry out their assigned duties. For a health and safety program to achieve its desired results, everyone in a workplace must know their responsibilities.
The following are samples of assignments of responsibilities designed for different-sized organizations. Select and customize, or create your own version.