The Difference Between a Safety Policy and an Effective Safety Policy!

How can you be sure your safety policy isn't just something to tick a box for compliance?

Author: Micheal Safety Management

The Difference Between a Safety Policy and an Effective Safety Policy!

If you are looking to align to the new ISO standard 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems, it is simple enough. If that is what you are looking for.

If you are looking to engage your people, be agile and develop a great risk management culture, then you need to consider a few other things.

What does the standard say about a safety policy?

The ISO standard lists what is required in Clause 5.2 OH&S Policy. The clause starts out with the customary “Top management shall….” and then the detail, paraphrased below (for copy-write reasons), states top management commitment to providing the following:

  • a commitment to provide safe conditions appropriate to the context, risks and opportunities,
  • a framework for setting objectives,
  • a commitment to meeting business obligations,
  • a commitment to mitigating hazards and risk,
  • a commitment to provide continual improvement; and
  • a commitment to consultation and participation of workers or their representatives.

Very straight forward. Many organisations take this list and create a one-page statement which is signed by the CEO, and maybe co-signed by the Board Chair, and the box is ticked.

How can we do better?

In a modern workplace you need to be agile and engage people. If you want to delegate responsibility, release top management from day to day operations, and demand safety leadership from line and operational management, it is important that you look beyond clause 5.2 and a statement by “Top Management”.

Consider who is delegated responsibility for your business and then go to Clause 5.1 Leadership and Commitment. You will see there are several leadership items that, if combined with clause 5.2, can change the way your leaders view their role. With a little more detail your policy can become real in everyday circumstances.

By combining these two clauses you will also reduce the amount of duplication in your system at the same time. Lets look at clause 5.1 below (paraphrased):

  • ensuring the integration of OHSMS into business process,
  • ensuring resources to maintain and improve the OHSMS are made available,
  • ensure the OHSMS achieves intended outcomes,
  • providing direction and support to people to contribute,
  • ensure and promote continual improvement,
  • develop, support and lead a culture that supports intended outcomes,
  • protects workers from reprisals; and
  • a commitment to consultation and participation of workers or their representatives.

Written well you are effectively stating that each manager needs to maintain their own area in a way that is aligned to overall OHSMS. The manager in each area is obliged to keep your system aligned to your changing business.

How does this make it more effective?

The safety policy should be the basis for all other documents that relate to safety. Once your Safety Policy is written consider the following suggestions to make safety more effective:

1. Request that all management appointments have a job description which includes whole paragraphs from your Safety policy. Don’t just reference the safety policy, include sections like:

  • ensuring the integration of OHSMS into business process,
  • provide safe conditions appropriate to the context, risks and opportunities,
  • ensure and promote continual improvement; and
  • develop, support and lead a culture that supports intended outcomes.

2. Consider asking each site or department manager to co-sign the safety policy and display it within their site or department.

3. Set leading key performance indicators within annual performance plans for managers around commitments within the safety policy, such as:

  • development of an annual site/department plan, with objectives to sustain, improve, or review the content of the OHSMS,
  • review any root cause analysis post incident and approve and recommendations within area of responsibility,
  • attend a minimum of 75% of all consultation meetings,
  • conduct a minimum of two continuous review meetings within department each year; and
  • maintain and brief manager on site/department Safety risks at least twice per year.

By creating the link from “Top Management” to Front-line Management the policy commitment becomes a tangible part of the management role.

As a CEO you can expect greater ownership from each manager of the Safety Management System in their area or responsibility.

Any change will bring consequences. What are the side effects?

When you consider using the suggestions above be prepared for issues to be raised about your system. In complex organisations the needs of the organisation can be diverse. By expecting greater ownership, and continual improvement from respective areas, issues will need to be received and managed on behalf of the entire system. These issues need review and management.

You may need some support to start things off. You may need some support from time to time along the way. It is up to you. Consider the role of an external specialist to support you through this transition.

C-Suite Safety Solutions has a range of services to assist your business with making a change like this.

Contact us today to discuss your needs so a Safety Bundle can be tailored to meet your aspirations. Phone 04 88 33 11 24


About Micheal

Micheal is the Executive Director of C-Suite Safety Solutions and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He brings over two decades’ experience in working directly with key leaders from a diverse range of major global organisations; to deliver expert solutions in governance, risk and strategy that effect positive advancements in workplace safety.

Micheal has first-hand knowledge of the importance of safety practices, from the lunch-room, to the board-room, and the court-room; and combines this experience with a wealth of knowledge in fields of Business; Corporate Governance; Auditing; Industrial WHS; HR and Administrative Leadership.

Micheal