To comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) and related regulations, all employers (including partnerships, sole traders and the self-employed) must have a health and safety policy. And, where more than four people are employed, the policy must be written down.

The health and safety policy is a key element to comply with other legislation, especially the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR). Alongside various other regulations, the MHSWR expands the general duties set out in the HSWA and establishes a framework for health and safety management.

Besides complying with the law, an effective health and safety policy will help ensure a structured approach to the identification, assessment and control of risks. This will  prevent or reduce the likelihood of people getting injured, ill or killed through work activities, reduce the likelihood of criminal prosecution and/or civil claims and the resultant costs, as well as promote a safety culture that increases productivity and supports a positive reputation.

Key actions when developing a health and safety policy

  • Appoint competent people to advise and assist with implementing measures that are necessary to comply with the law. A competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety.  
  • Include within your policy:
    • A statement of general policy – expressing commitment to the provision and improvement of the organisation’s health and safety arrangements and compliance with legislation, and based on obligations contained in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.
    • Roles and responsibilities – sets out the management structure through which the policy is implemented, establishing the responsibilities and relationships that implement, promote and develop the health and safety arrangements (usually incorporates a diagram or flowchart). The legal responsibilities of employees are also covered.
    • Arrangements – outlining the structure and procedures for identifying health and safety risks arising through work activities and for implementing control measures.
  • The roles/responsibilities and arrangements sections should be realistic and practical.
  • Monitor on a daily basis, the implementation of practices outlined in the policy.
  • Cross-refer to other formal and related policies to avoid duplication. These might include those relating to smoking/drug-use, alcohol and substance abuse, stress management, and disciplinary procedures.
  • Make it clear what the implications are of failing to follow health and safety procedures and rules.
  • Bring the policy to the attention of all employees, ideally by the issue of a copy to each person, with their signature acknowledging they have received, read and understand the content. This is an essential step, as it provides you with evidence employees have been made aware of their duties and responsibilities regarding health and safety.
  • Review the policy on a regular basis (at least annually), in the light of experience and whenever changes to processes need to be taken into account.
  • Produce a formal health and safety plan, setting clear objectives for the organisation, individual departments and operational areas, with approval and support from the top of the organisation. Additionally, managers and other key personnel should have a related personal action plan.
  • To ensure your health and safety arrangements work and will help you progress the actions you have set out in your policy, consider:
    • what you want to achieve;
    • the need for competent assistance and advice;
    • how you will decide what might cause harm to people and whether you are doing enough or need to do more to prevent that harm;
    • how you will prioritise the improvements you may need to make;
    • who will be responsible for health and safety tasks, their competence and any training requirements; what they should do, when and with what results; and
    • how you will measure and review whether you have achieved what you set out to.

Templates for health and safety

Risk assessments

Example form

Guards and safety devices

Inspection form

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about health and safety issues and related legislation.