Occupational health and safety (OHS) policy for your small or medium business

How to develop an OHS policy and procedure to protect your workers.



How this helps my business

Occupational health and safety policies and procedures are your workplace's plan for keeping your employees safe and healthy. They help everyone in the workplace understand the need for health and safety, what their role is in making the workplace safer and how they can 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 work 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 1

Consult your staff

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

There are many ways you can talk with your employees about occupational health and safety, including:

  • through your health and safety representatives
  • through your health and safety committees
  • having OHS as an agenda item at your regular meetings. These may be 'toolbox talks', production meetings, staff meetings or any way your organisation communicates with each other.
  • one-on-one discussions with your managers and employees
  • when you casually walk around your workplace with your staff

Step 2

Write your policy

This template is a starting point to draft your policy. The sample policy gives you some more information you can customise for your workplace

Step 3

Policy checklist

Use this short checklist to see what else you might need to consider in your policy.

  • A commitment from senior management to provide a safe working environment
  • What that commitment will mean for different parts of the business
  • 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 training employees need to be able to work safely
  • How health and safety policies and procedures will be shared with staff
  • The name of the person staff can speak to if they have concerns
  • Dates for when to check to make sure the policy is working as it's supposed to

Step 4

Implementation checklist

Use this short checklist to make sure you are ready to implement your policy.

Checklist for implementing your OHS policy

  • Can we explain clearly the purpose of the policy?
  • What are the procedures or the day-to-day tasks that need to be done to keep our workplace healthy and safe?
  • Who needs to do what, when and why?
  • What information, resources and training do employees need and how will it be provided?
  • How will you measure whether it has succeeded?
  • How often will the policy and procedures be reviewed?
  • How will you gather feedback from staff?
  • Is there a plan to make sure the team knows about the policy and understand what it means for them?
  • Are we ready to implement?

Bus Association Victoria, 2015

Step 5

Free, tailored advice

The OHS Essentials Program is a free safety consultation service delivered by WorkSafe OHS essentials program an independent occupational health and safety (OHS) consultant. The consultant will come to your workplace, help you identify hazards and provide a practical safety action plan. They'll also provide a follow-up service to see how you're tracking with the plan.

It's a great opportunity to learn more about your safety obligations and to receive tailored advice on managing safety in your workplace.

The program is available to small and medium-sized businesses with a WorkSafe Insurance Policy. Sole traders with contractors may be also eligible to apply but must hold a WorkSafe Insurance Policy.

Step 6

Share with staff

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.

Step 7

Multicultural communications

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.

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.

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.