How to develop a health and safety policy

A health and safety policy must derive from consultation; result in clear and practical statements; and set a keynote for corporate culture.

Health and safety policy development is a multi layered process, including a consultative process with executives one or two steps lower in the hierarchy, since they would give effect to policy in their own strategies.

Each policy statement level gives practical and more defined effect to the preceding level.

Policy structure thus to some extend follows organisational structure, writes editor Edmond Furter.

Orgainsational policy involves a vision, mission, and strategy. Each has a progressively narrowing scope of time and focus.

Following formulation by owners, investors, and stakeholders, each department sould develop a policy, directly relevant to its scope and functions.

Reference has to be made to relevant authorities, like legislation, global codes, state departments, economic and social aspirations.

Risk tolerance levels have to be set, and procedures outlined in broad terms, but not down to the level of standard operating procedures. Honesty, and alignment among the levels is required to allow instinctive trust and buy in from management, employers, clients, and suppliers.

There has to be rigor and traceability from vision to departmental policy. Executives and supervisors would have to be able to base their strategies on policy, down to departmental level.

Express inner meaning in a health and safety policy

Looking for fancy words and lofty goals is likely to miss the point of clarity and consultation. Employees should examine the meaning and function of policies, then the simplest and best understood words would follow.

One size does not fit all. Policies could not be copied from a book or bought from consultants, but a third party with experience of quality management system implementation or auditing, could be a great help in finding value from a task that is outside the scope of most employees’ training and experience.

An impartial third party, either from a consultant or head office or another branch, who do not regularly deal with the site developing its policy and strategy, could also overcome personality, organisational politics and career power play dynamics, and keep petty motives out of documents that ideally should guide the energy and culture of the organisation.

Graphic elements relevant to a parent organisation, coat of arms, industry, profession, site, technology, name, or logo, could help to release and guide the inner quest of an organisation, and align the efforts of individual employees in turn.

Activate culture

Sheq interventions require activation of organisational and human value systems in a cultural and individual context. The more rigorous and ingrained your vision, mission, policy and strategy statements are, the more likely that employees would adopt the organisational culture.

Every organisation has a default culture, usually based on archetypes inherent in its symbols, history, sector, process, or opinion leaders, perpetuated by peer pressure and other factors.

Policy processes should identify and strengthen positive elements in the default culture, and replace negative elements in the default culture, with stronger positive elements.

Recent applications of organisational team building by drumming circles, team rap songs and social compact sessions, offer glimpses into the integrated Sheq culture leadership and coaching that could take safety into an era beyond ‘behaviour change’, to culture activation.

Policy formulation is an integral part of culture, and of non measurable behaviour, therefore of Sheq performance.

–Edmond Furter, editor

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