Policy Documents

All about health and safety policy documents

Policy – one of those catch-all words that can be hard to define.  But in the land of health and safety, it is extremely important to understand what this word means.  Your Health and Safety Policy will be the document which dictates your whole H&S system. This is why it’s vital to have a bespoke policy, not just one you’ve copied and tweaked. 

As a health and safety consultant, I have seen probably hundreds if not thousands of H&S policies.  Often, I’m asked to review policies to make sure they comply with current legislation.  On one memorable occasion, I was told by a prospective client, who worked in construction, that they had a policy which they had written themselves and I wouldn’t have to change anything – they just wanted some risk assessments and some training.  I asked to see this policy, took one look, and told them it was no good because it didn’t relate to the work they carried out.  They weren’t happy, until I told them that they couldn’t have written the policy they had given me because it was one I’d written for a call centre!  Somebody somewhere had got hold of this Policy and had stuck their logo on it.

So what is a policy?  Well, it’s a document which sets out the arrangements an organisation has in place to comply with the legislation that’s relevant to them.  Clearly, the health and safety requirements of a call centre are very different from those of a construction company.

When you write your policy, you must research the health and safety rules that apply to your organisation and explain what arrangements you will make to put them into practice.  YourHS.space can help with this if you are concerned about writing your own document.  You don’t need to go into detail – remember, this is about arrangements only, NOT procedures.  Policies which contain procedures as well end up as very large documents that no-one will ever read, and that’s neither healthy nor safe.

Put simply, a policy sets out your arrangements e.g. Joe Bloggs is responsible for fire safety and will conduct fire drills every six months, test the emergency lights/fire alarm/extinguishers etc  weekly,  and arrange for external checks annually.  This sentence requires Joe to have procedures for recording the checks, a register and checklist for recording the fire drill and a list of approved contractors who can carry out the checks.  It is a waste of space to include these procedures in the Policy.

Remember:  POLICY = arrangements.  PROCEDURE = putting the arrangements into practice.


  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999

Note: YourHS.space can help with drafting polices and procedures if you are concerned about writing your own document.

Health and Safety Myth


A member of staff has been told that all visitors to the building where she works have to be shown the comprehensive asbestos register, even if they are only coming for a meeting and not doing any physical work.  For example, a visitor attending a verbal meeting with the store manager has to sign to say they have seen it.  The building is a retail outlet with back offices and does have managed asbestos in some areas.  The staff member said she would understand if the visitor was a contractor doing works to the building itself, but felt this requirement was over-the-top.

The serious health risks from exposure to asbestos are well known.  The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 contain a duty to pass on information about asbestos to people liable to disturb it in the course of their work or visit.  However, there is no reason why people visiting simply to attend a meeting would need to see this information.

Guidance published by the Retail Asbestos Working Group (RAWG), and supported by HSE, provides sensible, practical, advice on managing asbestos and working with asbestos containing materials in trading stores and shops.  The guidance confirms that the measures described go beyond what is needed to manage the risk of exposure for visitors.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, absolutely.  You must equip yourself with the knowledge of what you must include (going through this guide will contribute greatly towards this); and remember that you are only writing arrangements and not giving procedural details. You can ask YourHS.space to review the policy for you.  Or if you take out a subscription, YourHS.space will provide you with a template.

The information you require is contained in this guide.

You can sin up to a wide range of notifications at the HSE website. Go to How to trace legislation and keep up to date (hse.gov.uk). And of course, a subscription with YourHS.space will automatically ensure you are kept up to date.