How I conduct Policy Analysis

Recently, I got asked by a client to review their Health and Safety policy and if possible update. I can never forget the shock I felt when I downloaded the policy. It was an unprofessional mess by an obviously incompetent person. It was just a few lines of crap (10 or less) and failed miserably to answer questions I would usually ask (in my mind) and answer when preparing a policy.

Basically, a policy is a series of decisions and must take into account already existing policies be it national or international. Here is a twist – Some policies really don’t have to follow international or even national standards – some policies are strictly for your business and to help it meet some of its needs!

All policies I create have a policy mission statement. The mission statement should talk about the values and goals of the organisation and how you comply with guidelines and legislation in relation to the policy being developed. This is one of the things I look out for when conducting a policy analysis.

Today, I’m going to share with you tips I learnt when I was studying for my masters in Occupational Health and Safety Management – tips I still make use of nearly everyday!

I was taught that every policy is created based on a past, present and future so I always adopt that approach. I like to keep things simple so hopefully you can adopt this method if you find your current one cumbersome 😉

How I conduct Policy Analysis

The Past – Why was it created?

Let’s face it. Some people create/develop policies because the law says so.

In Nigeria, I have come to realise that apart from multinationals who already have great respect for Health and Safety, some local companies people create policies because they need to apply for contracts and the company wants to be sure you have a functional policy.

Most of the time, the company doesn’t know they should have a certain policy until the suppliers form requests it. Recently, I had to create an emergency Stop Work Policy which although the company claimed they practise, but didn’t have it documented.

At the end of the day, a policy should be created to meet some needs, answer some seen and unforeseen questions and be a key part of any organisation.

Here is a good example – in our school, we never had a written policy for reporting accidents. To be honest, initially, we had a verbal system and a little portion of it in the staff handbook (nothing special). I had just taken over running the school and was still in the process of introducing relevant policies. So many of the things I introduced were done verbally in staff meetings but recorded by the admin when taking minutes.

In the past in my work with teenage parents and their children, it became obvious very quickly that kids were prone to accidents as we had to fill out incident reports nearly everyday so it wasn’t difficult introducing this to the staff.

A few months into my running the school, a child got injured and the staff on duty tried to hide it from management. Well things like that never really stay hidden as the parents came days later to complain so it came out in the open. It was super embarrassing to admit we never knew of the injury. I placed the staff on suspension then introduced an incident reporting form and a policy to go along with it.

What I thought could wait till I could have it ready became ready in a matter of days. So right now, every time a child is injured even if it is a tiny bruise, it has to be recorded and reported the same day before the staff who witnessed the incident closes for the day.

This short story I just told answers the questions “Why was the policy created?” We created our accident/incident reporting policy because we saw a demand and an urgent need for it. We needed to prevent a situation where management are ill-informed about happenings in the school.

Why do you create policies? #foodforthought

The Present – What does the policy do?

What is the policy all about? What does it do? Do you have the policy as decoration in your office? Does it help workers work better or help the organisation meet its targets? Do you put it into practise?

Using my story I just told, I can say for a fact that we do practise what the policy says. We don’t have it on display but we do have an intranet system where staff can access all the policies. They really have no excuse to be ignorant. It helps management and the staff work better together. It helps us contact parents before close of day so there are no surprises when they get home. It also helps teachers and nursery assistants be more watchful!

The Future – What difference does it make?

Does it achieve any goals with positive and/or negative effects? Does it have any consequences for “offenders”?

Our incident reporting policy does make a huge difference. Teachers are not happy to submit a new incident form so they are more watchful. They don’t want their kids getting hurt and having to explain what they could have done better to prevent the situation. It has had a positive effect on us all. I receive less incident reports and the kids magically have less injuries.

Are there consequences for those who fail to adhere to this policy? Yes. They have seen it happen – suspension without pay and of course a not so pretty record in your personnel file. Persistent offenders will of course have their employment terminated – thankfully, this has never happened.

Be realistic!

It is possible to introduce a policy that worsens the situation. If this happens, don’t stress so much about it. It is a big deal but it isn’t the end of the world (even if someone gets hurt – can’t say the same for a fatality though). That is why you need to evaluate your policy once it is implemented. When planning for the future, never forget about consequences – on your part as a company, safety professional or employee.

Evaluate the policy? Yes evaluate. Watch out for my next post where I go into great details on how to plan for develop and evaluate a policy (a step by step approach).