What is an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) policy? It is the duty an employer has to his employees in order to ensure their safety in the work environment as well as during offsite work functions.
Work Health and Safety (WHS) is another term for Occupational Health and Safety. While the employer has a duty to keep his employees safe, other people fall under his responsibility as well. This list includes:
The pros of implementing an Occupational Health and Safety Policy far outweigh the cons.
Installing safety equipment and learning or teaching safety practices takes money, time, and effort. They are, however, critical to having and maintaining a successful business.
Some of the consequences of not taking these necessary actions include:
- Loss of Staff Members
Let’s discuss several imperatives you must include in your Occupational Health and Safety Policy Handbook.
1. Employer Responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety
At the very start of your business, you need to make sure you have your Health and Safety practices in place in accordance with Australia’s WHS laws. Several ways to implement this include:
- Creating a safe working environment for employees
- Providing clean and accessible toilet facilities
- Training of employees on equipment safety
- Keeping up with maintenance on facilities and equipment to ensure safe usage
- Observing and maintaining employee health and working conditions
- Ensuring proper training, information, and supervision at the beginning of employment
- Ensuring proper storage of materials, chemicals, and machinery
- Creating and practicing emergency plans
If the employer doesn’t make a habit of following safety protocols, then it's likely that employees will follow this lead. The safety measures of the work environment will become lax, and that is when catastrophes can take place.
Strive to set a good example for your employees from day one so that they will feel secure in their working environment as well as maintain proper safety training practices.
It's important to include this information when writing your guide. You may want to include a signature or initial space as well. This can serve as evidence that your employees fully understood your policies.
2. Having an Emergency Plan
In order to lower the risks of accidents when an emergency takes place, it's imperative to have an emergency plan in place and frequently put it into practice. Consider holding drills once a month or quarterly to ensure employees know what steps to take in an emergency situation.
It's also smart to consider which areas of your business are at increased risk during an emergency and figure out how to remedy those weak-points.
Take a look at this emergency planning checklist for businesses for some valuable tips.
When determining which areas of your business pose the biggest threats during an emergency, consider including these steps in your plan.
- Develop a risk management table
- Develop scenario planning tables
- Look closely at your infrastructure and property
- Keep a record of your insurance policies
- Identify a temporary office
- Consider virtual office, business, e-commerce
- Keep a record of each employee’s qualifications, strengths, and weaknesses
- Come up with a way to protect your business network and data information
It's wise to read more in-depth about these strategies as you prepare to write your health and safety policy.
Write this information into your guide alone with scheduled days to practice safety drills.
3. Knowledge and Training on First Aid
In an emergency situation, first aid training saves lives—literally! Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to ensure your business is adequately trained and prepared in the ability to administer first aid.
- Does my business have adequate first aid equipment?
- Is our first aid equipment easily accessible and located in a known location for all employees?
- Are there more first aid certified workers employed than not certified?
- If the answer to letter “C” is “no,” then do I have enough certified employees to cover for unexpected employee absence?
- Do we regularly practice first aid drills?
Taking the time to consider each point will show you in which areas your training may be lacking.
This is a make or breaks section when writing your guide. You may even want to consider adding in a quiz to ensure understanding.
4. Employee Responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety
While it’s true that an employer is responsible for the safety of his workers, those workers also have a duty when it comes to workplace safety measures.
Workers must be careful to take care of themselves when they are sick or injured. They owe it to the people they work with to make sure they are not spreading illness, germs, or bodily fluids such as blood.
Employees must also be careful when working around others to maintain trained safety procedures so as not to hurt another employee accidentally.
It is imperative that employees follow the policies, procedures, rules, expectations, and requirements of the WHS laws.
Make sure that along with writing these details you include the consequences employees may face for not following them.
5. Extreme Weather Safety for Workers
In accordance with WHS laws, as an employer, you need to provide a work environment that is safe in the event of severe or extreme weather.
While some employers are required to permit leave of absence to employees in the case of extreme weather, others are not. If you are unsure which category you fall under, visit this website Fair Work Ombudsman to find out.
Several examples of weather that can fall under the “extreme” category and possibly damage your business include:
- Severe heat
- Intense cold
- Strong winds
Also make sure you're familiar with the signs of heat-related illness among your employees.
Write different procedures that coincide with different weather types to ensure all your bases are covered.
6. Work Parties and Functions
While you may be out celebrating a holiday or even just celebrating your hard-working staff, keep in mind that you are still responsible for your workers' safety during work functions -- even if the function or party takes place away from your place of business.
Here are several things you can do to ensure staff safety:
- Make sure there is no unacceptable behavior such as bullying or harassment taking place
- Send a general and friendly email before an event to remind workers of proper etiquette and expectations
- Any alcohol bought and consumed should be done legally and responsibly
- Ensure methods of safe transportation afterword for intoxicated employees
Make sure you mention appropriate behavior at work functions in your guide as well.
WHS Requirements in Your State or Territory
Since every state or territory has its own Occupational Health and Safety laws, it's wise to check and see which ones apply to you..
Putting it All Together
While developing and following the Occupational Health and Safety policies may seem inconvenient, expensive to implement, and time-consuming at first, it is far better to prepare for the future successes of your business rather than risk losing everything you’ve worked so hard for.
If you're ready to make sure your business is covered from every angle, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.