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Clear health and safety policies vital to protect staff and employers

The recent case of a security guard who was apparently sacked for breaching his employer's health and safety policy by chasing a shoplifter has once again catapulted the issue into the headlines.

While full details of the dismissal have not yet been disclosed, initial reports of the case suggest that the security guard had breached health and safety terms by leaving the premises to chase a shoplifter who had made off with £200 worth of merchandise. Michael Slade, managing director of Bibby Consulting and Support, believes that cases such as this can be avoided if employers simply take the trouble to draw up clear health and safety policies and communicate them to staff - as well as explaining the rationale behind them.

Speaking in Personnel Management, Slade claims that cases like this 'are not clear cut. That's why companies need to make sure they have clear policies in place, that their workers are fully aware of them - and reminded on a regular basis. It might be expected that security guards should be able to chase thieves, but if they are running at speed through a public place, there is a very real chance that they could collide with someone and cause them serious injury....or the guards could be set upon by a thief's accomplices and sustain a serious injury themselves."

You are obliged by law to have a written health and safety policy if you employ 5 or more people. Getting your health and safety policy right helps you to safeguard the safety of your staff, equipment and premises and manage risk effectively. Remember that staff are far more likely to adhere to a policy with clear terms and whose rationale they understand, so good communication around health and safety is of paramount importance in any workplace. Acas can advise you on all aspects of drawing up terms and conditions for employees, including aspects of health and safety.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions area for more information.

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