By Joanna Weekes
To implement effective policies and procedures at your workplace, follow these steps to get the best results.
Step 1: Consultation
When developing your policies and procedures, you must consult with all relevant stakeholders, including health and safety representatives, contractors (particularly those who work with you regularly), and of course your employees.
Consultation should ensure that every person in your workplace understands the importance of company policies and procedures and why they need to be implemented effectively.
It will also ensure that the policies and procedures are realistic and actionable on a daily basis.
Tip: Consultation helps to achieve more effective policies and procedures, and is a greater motivation for employees to follow them.
Step 2: Tailor the policy to your business
The policies and procedures you adopt need to be tailored to the needs of your business, not just lifted straight from a generic manual.
If you use policies and procedures from another source, it is essential that you adapt them to your company and your workplace operations.
Step 3: Define obligations clearly – be specific!
All policies should be short and succinct.
All procedural steps should be set out in clear and plain English.
This will create an ‘auditable standard’, meaning that you create a standard that can be used to measure whether your workplace health and safety obligations are being met or not.
The obligations outlined in an auditable standard should be defined in enough detail that persons in your workplace understand exactly what is expected of them.
Specifically state what actions should be taken. For example, don’t say “dispose of chemicals safely“, but state how this should be done at the site, e.g. “chemicals must be disposed of in the designated approved dangerous goods waste drum“.
Step 4: Make the policy realistic
Make sure your business has the time, resources and personnel to implement the policy.
There is no point in adopting a policy which aspires to the best practice possible if your business cannot realistically adopt the procedures set out.
This is the development stage of the policy and procedure done. Once you have completed these steps, you will have the policies and procedures your company needs to maintain a healthy and safe workplace.
But the next stage is just as important as the development stage, the implementation stage…
Don’t get too excited that you have developed the policies and procedures because without implementing them correctly, they won’t be of any use to you.
Step 5: Publicise the policies and procedures
Put your policies and procedures in writing and make them available to your entire workforce.
If possible, keep all your policies and procedures in a single manual, and make copies readily available to all employees.
Tip: Safety documents should also be published on the company’s intranet if you have one.
Step 6: Train all employees in policies and procedures
You have an obligation to provide adequate information, instruction, supervision and training to your employees.
Ensure that new employees and contractors are trained and familiar with company policies and procedures, and that existing staff receive appropriate training, e.g. annual refresher courses.
Policies and procedures should also be reiterated and discussed with staff regularly at team meetings to ensure that employees remain aware of the importance & advantages of the policies and procedures.
Tip: It is a good idea to have all employees and contractors sign off after they have read, understood and agree to comply with your workplace policies. You should also keep records of training and induction. Make sure that you record attendees and details of training content in case an employee fails to sign a training record.
Step 7: Be consistent in your policy implementation
Supervision of your workplace to ensure that the policies and procedures are being properly implemented by all employees is essential.
Follow-up to ensure that any failure to follow the policy or procedure is addressed.
Specify that full compliance with the stated requirements is needed to ensure a safe workplace.
After this, any deliberate breaches of policies or procedures must be treated seriously, and dealt with immediately and consistently.
All supervisors and managers must ‘lead by example’ in implementing policies and procedures. It is crucial that all OHS expectations are demonstrated through modelling and leadership at all levels of management.
If managers condone practices which do not fall within the policy, it could be argued that disciplinary action against an employee who fails to follow the policy is unfair. The consequence of any deliberate breach should be appropriate to the severity of the breach, whether it be:
- disciplinary action (e.g. a warning); or
- in serious circumstances, dismissal.
Step 8: Review all policies and procedures regularly
Policies and procedures must be reviewed periodically.
When any changes occur, ensure your policies and procedures remain relevant and effective. For example, a change may occur when a business purchases a new piece of machinery, starts using a new chemical or adopts a new production method. Any such changes mean that relevant procedures should be reviewed.
Tip: The review cycle will depend on the circumstances and document type, but it is a good idea to review policies at least every 2 years, e.g. an OHS training policy may only need to be reviewed every 3 years, but a chemical handling procedure should be reviewed more often due to the level of hazard involved.
Implement a document management system that:
- triggers reviews;
- notes the dates of change; and
- involves interactive revision.
All employees and contractors need to be made aware of the changes to policy and procedure when they occur.
Step 9: Enforce the workplace policies and procedures
Once your policies and procedures have been implemented, they need to be enforced. Make sure that you approach this consistently as this is an important factor in being able to discipline a worker for a breach of policy.
Tip: The simpler the system, the easier it is for workers to understand and for employers to enforce health and safety policies and procedures.