Do you struggle to write you company’s safety and environmental policies? Do you find them coming out too long and cumbersome and nobody understands or follows them? Here’s the process that I use when writing a policy.

  1. Don’t write it like it’s written by lawyers for lawyers…it’s for your employees, not your corporate lawyer, regardless of what lawyers think about it! Write in common language. Every employee should be able to interpret the policy and use it. While the document may be called into court one day, it’s not meant to be a legal document, it’s meant to guide your employees’ actions. If you write it like a legal document, nobody will understand it and it won’t get followed, and now you’re much more likely to need it in court! Rethink if you number every line like an outline. Writing the document like a legal document with every line and every sentence numbered, lettered, etc. like an OSHA standard is difficult to understand and breaks up people’s train of thought. Conversely, it shouldn’t be a long simple document that reads like a high school essay with grammar errors.
  2. Determine the scope of your policy: Single facility or multi-national? If you are writing a policy for a corporation with multiple facilities, you may want to write a guidance policy for facilities to follow rather than pushing out a policy that has requirements that don’t apply to most facilities. What are your facility’s needs? Contractors or employees? All or just authorized employees?
  3. Outline the requirements based on regulations before writing. Instead of trying to write a policy as you read a regulation, read the regulation, take notes, and make an outline of the few requirements that you need to include. Those are the points you must make. Otherwise, it is easy to write a long, jumbled document that doesn’t flow.
  4. Leave out all the specifics of the how and why: The HOW what training documents and procedures are for. Refer to the regulatory standard for the why. People can Google statistics and other info. Keep information timeless. The document shouldn’t be obsolete in a few months or discuss current events in your facility.
  5. Don’t dictate every possible scenario, provide guiding principles. If it covers every possible scenario, it will be far too long and cumbersome.
  6. Include a revision date so people know what version they have and should follow.
  7. Make available to others in PDF, keep your master Word file secure so others can’t accidentally change it, and manage documents so when you update it, the obsolete is easy to archive and control so you don’t have multiple revisions floating around.