Organising Safety and Health in your Workplace

Safety and health organisation starts by carrying out workplace specific Risk Assessments, writing them down and implementing the improvements that the Assessments have identified. This is required by Section 19 of the 2005 Act. These Assessments must then be included in the undertaking’s Safety Statement and, where applicable, in the safety and health plans for construction sites.

How do I do Risk Assessments and a Safety Statement?

All undertakings are required by Section 20 of the 2005 Act to prepare a Safety Statement. The Safety Statement is the organisational plan for safety and health and is required to spell out how safety and health is managed in the workplace.

The Safety Statement should be endorsed by the board, to show its commitment to the Statement’s objectives and plans. The preparation and implementation of these documents can ensure the greater involvement by everyone in the safety and health of the business, so it is necessary to get them involved. Sections 19 and 20 of the 2005 Act do not set out how duty-holders must carry out their Risk Assessments or prepare a Safety Statement. The Authority has produced extensive guidance on how to do these tasks and some of our Guidance is sector specific. Please check our Publications Section for details. For small businesses our electronic based Risk Assessment and Safety Statement tool BeSMART can be used.

Note that Section 20(8) of the 2005 Act gives an exemption to companies with less than four employees from the requirements to prepare a Safety Statement if an Approved Code of Practice exists for that sector or work activity and is being complied with. Codes have been prepared for some sectors such as agriculture, construction and quarries which are available in our Publications section. However the requirements to do Risk Assessments still remains and the Codes deal with these issues.

How do I ensure collective responsibility for all my managers?

The Safety Statement must spell out the safety and health responsibilities for all levels within the business and, in particular, how they must all work together to ensure safety and health. Directors must also be given the authority to affect health and safety changes in the workplaces covered by the Safety Statement.

The Safety Statement must start with the safety and health policy. This policy is the undertaking’s commitment to protecting employees’ safety and health. Make this policy specific to each workplace in the undertaking. Consult employees when the Statement is being prepared and review it regularly, when necessary, including for example if there are changes in the workplace, workforce, organisation or method of work, articles or substances used at work etc.

The Directors and board should formally accept it as company policy. Then the board and its senior management team must ensure all their business decisions reflect the policy as set out. Directors should have a clear understanding of what the safety and health policy covers.The policy should be open to examination at board level so that it is robust enough to cover the safety and health risks posed by the undertaking.

The board should be responsible for driving the safety and health agenda, understanding the risks and opportunities associated with safety and health and any matters that might affect safety and health. The knowledge, training, experience and safety and health competence that Directors should have to carry out their role and ensure their legal responsibilities are met, will depend on the health and safety risks the undertaking poses.

It is important for boards and their Directors to remember that, although safety and health responsibilities can and should be delegated to senior managers, the legal responsibility for safety and health still rests with the employer.

Each Director and senior manager must accept their individual role in providing safety and health leadership for their undertaking. Strong leadership is vital in delivering effective safety and health risk control. Everyone in the undertaking must know and believe that the board is committed to continuous improvement in safety and health performance, what its expectations are of them and how they should deliver what is expected of them. By involving all their staff in the development and maintenance of safety and health they make safety and health everyone’s business.

What are the key tasks?

The key tasks that the board should carry out in ensuring they accept collective responsibility while implementing their safety and health legal responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing and, where appropriate, endorsing the Safety Statement when prepared by the senior management team
  • Receiving regular reports on progress, performance and implementation of safety and health plans
  • Ensuring sufficient resources are made available to achieve and implement these safety and health plans
  • Ensuring that the senior managers and the workforce are actively involved in the management of safety and health
  • Developing a communications plan to show the board’s commitment to its safety and health policy
  • Making sure the necessary organisational structures exist to ensure that safety and health is properly managed
  • Being kept aware of all matters in relation to safety and health especially major incidents and changes in legislation
  • Ensuring safety and health audits are undertaken to monitor all aspects of safety and health policy implementation

What else should the Board be looking at?

In ensuring collective responsibility among senior managers the board must ask them the following key questions:

  • Do you provide daily safety and health leadership in the areas you control?
  • Have you allocated responsibilities and authority for safety and health to specific people in your Department / Unit - are they clear on what they have to do and what they are to be held accountable for?
  • Do you have sufficient information about the risks they are exposed to and the preventive measures they must take?
  • Do you consult and involve your staff in key decision making on safety and health issues?
  • Do you have a safety committee for this purpose and do you facilitate the selection of safety representative(s)?