Create and review your occupational health and safety policy

Develop a workplace plan for keeping employees safe and healthy.


Step 1: What is an OHS policy?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) policies and procedures are your workplace's plan for keeping employees safe and healthy. They help everyone understand their role in making the workplace safer and how to fulfil their responsibilities and duties.

Occupational health and safety policy and procedures can benefit any organisation, no matter how small or large, by:

  • helping organisations create safer working environments
  • reducing injuries, including mental injuries
  • reducing injury-related costs
  • improving business opportunities
  • demonstrating that your organisation is meeting legal requirements
  • giving your organisation a good reputation

Research shows that there are clear links between good occupational health and safety management systems and long-term business efficiency.

Step 2: Consult your employees

A safe workplace is more easily achieved when employers and employees talk to each other about potential problems and work together to find solutions.

By law, employers must consult with employees about matters that do, or will likely, directly affect their health and safety, including when preparing an OHS policy. As a minimum, employers must share information with employees, give them an opportunity to share views on that issue, and take those views into consideration.

Consultation can be done in a number of ways, including:

  • through your health and safety representatives
  • through your health and safety committees
  • having OHS as an agenda item at your regular meetings
  • one-on-one discussions with your managers and employees
  • when you casually walk around your workplace with your staff

There's no one right way to do it – it depends on what works best for your workplace.

To learn about your rights and responsibilities, as well as how best to consult:

Step 3: Write an OHS policy

The generic policy template is a starting points to help draft your policy. You need to make sure your OHS policies and procedures are:

  • working to keep employees safe
  • still relevant to the types of work you do
  • still relevant to your workplace
  • successfully identifying safety issues and managing risks

Use the dot point list below to see if you have covered the basics and compare your OHS policy to the sample OHS policy. Check to see if you've included:

  • a commitment from senior management to provide a safe working environment
  • a description of what roles you'll need to maintain workplace health and safety (for example, fire warden, first aid, health and safety representative)
  • how each level of management will be responsible for health and safety policies and procedures
  • a promise to involve employees in deciding how the policy will be put into practice
  • what information, instruction and training employees need in order to work safely
  • how health and safety policies and procedures will be shared with employees
  • the name of the person employees can speak to if they have OHS concerns
  • dates for when to check to make sure the policy is working as it's supposed to

Step 4: Share the OHS policy

Use your meetings, OHS committees or "toolbox talks" to discuss your OHS policies and procedures, including whenever you update them. Share the documents widely so that all employees are aware of them. This could include displaying them on your notice boards or sharing through your email or intranet systems. Make sure your employees have a chance to ask any questions.

All employees, including those whose first language is not English, need information about the OHS policy, general information and training to understand the risks involved in their work and to enable them to do the job safely. To help, WorkSafe has information in other languages.

Step 4: Languages other than English

All employees, including those whose first language is not English, need information and training to understand the risks involved in their work and to enable them to do the job safely. WorkSafe has information in other languages or you can call WorkSafe.

For some workplaces, you may need to translate your policies into other languages. You can use a professional translating service, or for simple translation, on-line translating services such as Google Translate can be a good first step.

Step 5: Review and improve the policy

Occupational health and safety policies need to be reviewed regularly to make sure they are still working well and cover the situations that come up in your workplace. You'll need to review your OHS policies regularly to ensure they are keeping employees safe and are relevant to your workplace. Make a plan or a timetable for reviewing each OHS policy and procedure in your workplace. Important times to review are when there are:

  • any changes at your workplace
  • new plant or administrative processes
  • new knowledge about hazards
  • new legislation or regulations
  • any injuries, incidents or near misses

Share the outcomes of these reviews with your employees, along with suggestions and recommendations for improvements. This will keep the conversation going and build trust and cooperation.

Set a calendar appointment now to review your policy in 12 months.

WorkSafe Advisory Service

WorkSafe's advisory service is available between 7:30am and 6:30pm Monday to Friday. If you need more support, you can also contact WorkSafe using the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) or the National Relay Service.

1800 136 089 More contact options

More information

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.