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Three Policies You Must Have in Your WHS Handbook

Published May 25, 2021 (last updated on April 18, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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Every workplace has hazards and risks. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm to a person. A risk is the likelihood that harm will occur.

It is an employer’s duty under workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation to keep workers healthy and safe as far as reasonably practicable, and to minimise, if not eliminate, the hazards and any risks of harm. The work environment and culture can play an important part in keeping your workers safe and it is important to document processes in policies and procedures as part of managing any health and safety risks.

Why do I need a WHS handbook?

To help contain potential hazards in your business, it is important to assess any possible risks, have processes in place to control those risks, to educate your workers as to those processes and their obligation to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and to enforce the policies consistently. Putting the policies and procedures in a handbook provides employees with easy reference to one document where they can find all the key information regarding health and safety standards and requirements, and expectations and obligations within their workplace.

BrightHR allows you to store employee profiles and key documents such as contracts and handbooks securely in the cloud and determine employee access. You can upload updated polices and handbooks, set reminders and notifications of key dates, and get read receipts once your employees have accessed the latest version.

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What policies should I include in the WHS handbook?

What policies you include in your handbook depend on your workplace and the industry you are in as the hazards in your business may differ. According to Safe Work Australia, the three most common types of injury within most businesses that lead to workers compensation claims are the following:

  • Body Stress mainly through repeated manual handling

  • Slips, Trips and Falls

  • Work-related Stress

Body stress

Body stress usually occurs where workers repeat the same movements, or strenuous work, such as heavy lifting. Body Stress commonly affects the back, forearms, wrists, hands, neck, and shoulders.

You can look at the workplace environment, including design, layout, systems, processes and the tools and equipment the employee is using, as well as the actual tasks involved, and then try and put measures in place to reduce the stress on the employee’s body. Make the employee aware of the risks of injury and train them in safe (manual handling) practices. Provide them with ergonomically designed equipment where possible, and try and reduce the amount of repetitive tasks, or rotate them where possible.

Slips, trips and falls

According to Safe Work NSW slips, trips, and falls on the same level as well from any height are the most common cause of injuries at work.

Choose an appropriate floor type for the job, keep it in good repair, and make sure the floors are kept clear, clean and dry. Workers need to take responsibility for mopping up their spills and keeping their workspace clean.

Another thing to consider is the work environment, for example the lighting and any sudden distractions or conditions that may take the employee by surprise. Finally, make sure the employees have appropriate footwear for the work environment and the job they are doing.

Work-related stress

Employees can feel stressed when their work demands exceed their capabilities or the resources at their disposal. Other causes include poor employee relationships, bullying or harassment, and lack of work flexibility or support, as well as environmental factors such as noise.

Stress can result in physical symptoms such as headaches and fatigue, psychological symptoms such as anxiety, sleep loss and depression, or behavioural symptoms such as mood swings.

Firstly, look at reducing the impact of any environmental factors, then look at the work systems and processes. Set clear expectations and goals that employees can meet. Make sure workloads are reasonable, deadlines are appropriate, and that employees have the training and skills to perform the tasks expected of them. Offer coaching and support, as well as rewarding and recognising employees when they excel. Foster open communication and encourage team building activities. Finally, outline structured, confidential complaint and dispute resolution processes as part of your policies and procedures.

BrightHR and BrightSafe offer online learning modules that you can use to train staff particularly in respect of their health and safety obligations.

If you need help with your Workplace Health and Safety Policies and procedures, call us for free initial advice on 1300 651 415.

This article has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after publication may affect the completeness or accuracy of this information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, we disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions contained in this information or any failure to update or correct this information. It is your responsibility to assess and verify the accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability of the information on this website, and to seek professional advice where necessary. Nothing contained on this website is to be interpreted as a recommendation to use any product, process or formulation or any information on this website. For clarity, Employsure does not recommend any material, products or services of any third parties. 

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