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Health & Safety Policy For Small Businesses

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The importance of preparing a written Health and Safety Policy.

The arboriculture industry typically features prominently when it comes to discussions about dangerous occupations, with a variety of risks needing to be managed from one job to the next, and it is important for small businesses to have clear health and safety policies and procedures in place.

As previously noted in this series, Safe Work Australia (SWA) points to a range of hazards associated with tree trimming and removal work, from the potential to slip, trip and fall, to the dangers of falling objects, such as branches or felled trees.

Highlighting the risks workers face, SWA figures show that from 2010 to 2014 there were 33 workers killed by falling vegetation, mainly trees, accounting for 3 per cent of all worker fatalities for that period.

Given the hazards regularly involved with arboriculture work, businesses should carefully consider health and safety management, and preparing a written health and safety policy serves to underpin a business’ safety approach.

The Purpose Of A Written Health And Safety Policy

Ken Hocking, Timber Trade Industrial Association Safety Manager, points to the importance of having a documented safety policy as part of a company’s safety management system.

“The safety policy will outline the company’s overall approach and commitment, together with the provisions you have put in place for dealing with health and safety in your business,” Ken told AA.

“Its purpose is to highlight the company’s commitment to work health and safety, and the safety responsibilities of everyone in the workplace.”

Ken explained that dedicating time to communicating and implementing a policy demonstrates the seriousness with which a company takes its health and safety obligations. He additionally noted that portraying the importance of safety in a policy will see workers “want to work in a safe manner and fulfil their own safety responsibilities”.

“When a business seriously takes into a certain amount of trustworthiness that the company gains,” he commented.

“This helps create a relaxed and easy environment amongst workers, as they know they are well looked after, which can result in higher retention rates and increased productivity.”

What Should A Health And Safety Policy Cover?

When it comes to putting together a written policy, Ken advises that it should cover the following areas:

  • The company’s commitment to WHS
  • Management’s WHS responsibilities
  • The supervisor or foreman’s WHS responsibilities
  • Workers’ WHS responsibilities
  • How the policy will be implemented in the company
  • How the policy will be communicated throughout the company
  • The date of the policy
  • The signature of the highest level of management

Ken additionally points to the following areas of focus for the arboriculture industry when documenting a policy:

  • WHS risk assessment – hazard identification, assessment and control
  • WHS consultation – safety meetings
  • Training – induction and safety operating procedure training
  • Incident reporting and identification

When it comes to reviewing a company’s policy, Ken told AA that this should be undertaken “every 12 months to ensure it is being effectively implemented by the company, its managers, supervisors and workers”.

Of course, when in doubt about WHS issues, it is important to seek out additional advice, including consulting with the relevant state or territory WHS regulator for further information.

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