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Health and safety instructions - what should you know about them?

Are health and safety instructions required in every enterprise and every workplace?

If so, what form should they take?

Such questions can be asked when seeing various documents created in an organisation.

Let’s start with the Labour Code. The requirement to create instructions is referred to in several places, among others: Art. 209(2). § 1:

“In the event of a possible danger to health or life, the employer shall: 2) immediately provide workers with instructions enabling them, in the event of imminent danger, to stop work and to move away from the place of danger to a place of safety.”

Such hazards may include fire, explosion or chemical substance leakage. The probability of such undesirable events occurring varies, as they depend on many factors. However, we cannot treat them as totally improbable events. Preparing for the eventuality of such an occurrence and implementing appropriate instructions specifying the course of action should therefore be considered an appropriate approach.

Further in Art. 237(4) § 2:

“The employer is obliged to issue detailed instructions and guidance on health and safety at workplaces.”

The provision does not directly indicate the form in which the workplace instructions are to be drafted, therefore, it may be concluded that familiarisation with the instructions may take place in writing or verbally.

However, when it comes to confirming that they have familiarised themselves with the work safety regulations in force, an employee should do so in writing, which is confirmed by Art. 237(4) § 3:

“The employee shall be obliged to confirm in writing that he has become familiar with the regulations and rules of occupational safety and health.”

The obligation to create occupational safety and health instructions also stems from specific provisions, including the Ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 26 September 1997 on general occupational safety and health regulations. § 41 indicates as follows:

,, 1.The employer is obliged to make available to employees, for their constant use, up-to-date health and safety instructions concerning:

1) technological processes applied in the establishment and execution of works related to accident hazards or health hazards of employees,

2) operation of machines and other technical equipment; 3) handling of harmful and hazardous materials,

3) handle materials harmful to health and dangerous

4) provide first aid.


2. The instructions referred to in paragraph (1) shall indicate, in a manner comprehensible to workers, the steps to be taken before starting the work, the principles and procedures for the safe performance of the work, the steps to be taken after completion of the work, and the emergency procedures to be followed in the event of danger to the life or health of workers. The instructions for work involving hazardous chemical substances and preparations shall take into account the information contained in the safety data sheets of those substances and preparations.”

The above-mentioned regulations therefore emphasise the importance of drawing up work instructions.

We will certainly be able to indicate what work is carried out and on which positions, which machines and equipment employees use in their daily work, whether hazardous materials are used and how the first aid system functions in the establishment. The workplace instructions for machinery and equipment should be based on the technical documentation provided by the manufacturer.

In para. 4 § 44 of the aforementioned regulation, we can find information on where to place first aid instructions:

“at first aid points and at first aid kits, in visible places (…)”.

Reference to the instructions is also made in § 51:

“2. the assembly, disassembly and operation of machinery, including its handling, should be carried out in compliance with the requirements of safety and hygiene at work and ergonomics, taking into account the instructions contained in the technical and user documentation. (…)”

Special attention has been given to hazardous materials: § 96:

,, 2. In storage areas there shall be posted instructions stipulating how hazardous materials are to be stored, packaged, loaded and transported; employees engaged in such work shall be familiar with the instructions.”

When carcinogenic agents, infectious biological agents and other agents hazardous to the health and life of workers are present in work processes, one of the employer’s obligations is to define in the instructions appropriate rules of conduct in the event of unforeseen situations causing serious risks to workers.

There is also a requirement to prepare instructions when it is necessary to use personal protective equipment. In accordance with § 6 of ANNEX 2 of the Ordinance on general health and safety at work:

,,1. Personal protective equipment should be used for its intended purpose, except in special and exceptional situations, in accordance with the instructions provided by the employer. If necessary – in order to ensure the proper use of PPE – the employer should organise demonstrations of the use of PPE.”

Depending on the type of work performed, or the activity of the entrepreneur, the preparation of instructions results from various legal regulations. For example, in the case of construction work, the obligation to prepare instructions on safe performance of construction work results from § 2 of the Regulation of the Minister of Infrastructure of 6 February 2003 on occupational safety and health during construction work: “The contractor, prior to the commencement of construction works, is obliged to prepare an instruction on safe execution of construction works and to familiarise employees with it in the scope of the works performed by them.”

The instructions may be prepared internally at the workplace or may be provided by a manufacturer of hazardous substances and preparations, machinery, tools, scaffolding, etc.

The scope of the instructions should relate to the specifics of the work, e.g. in the case of assembly work on steel structures and large-size prefabricated elements, they should be carried out on the basis of an assembly design and a BIOZ plan, by workers who are familiar with the assembly organisation instructions and the type of machinery and other technical equipment used (§ 214 of the above-mentioned Ordinance).

In many cases, instructions are often referred to when talking about the use of machinery and equipment.

The way the instructions are developed should enable the employee to understand them (user language, avoidance of complicated terminology or the use of explanations, concise presentation of the most important information).

Having many tasks to perform in the company, we may face a dilemma: “to buy a ready-made HSE instruction or to develop one ourselves?”

There are many offers on various websites: instruction manuals for machines, safety instructions for hairdressers, instruction manuals for office workers, instruction manuals for computer work, instruction manuals for hairdressers. The question we can ask is whether it is worth buying the so-called ready-made.

Personally, I encourage you to try to prepare the instructions on your own, with the participation of people who have knowledge in the area we are analysing.

EHS Consulting provides advisory services in the area of documentation development related to work safety, including occupational health and safety manuals.

Below you will find some information on how we co-produce health and safety manuals.

1. We start with a header, marking the number of our document. If there are many documents in an organisation, such a system will allow us to organise our documentation. It will be easier to find the right instruction, to know what it relates to, and to determine its validity.

2. On the first page, include information on the persons who participated in the development of the manual (their role: drafting, reviewing, approving).

3. General provisions/introduction/introduction – regardless of how you name this point, you should indicate:

– what the instruction concerns,

– what place it has in the hierarchy of documents in force in the company (is it e.g. related to another document),

– the legal basis (why such an instruction should be developed).

4. Indicate legal requirements with respect to employees (required training, qualifications, etc.)

5. Rules when performing the work (described step by step, as if we were to do the work ourselves 😊). If applicable (e.g. in the case of chemicals), describe the storage and handling conditions (based on manufacturer’s instructions)..

6. Mention hazards that may occur during the work, as well as emergency procedures.

7. Final remarks (we can give information, for example, when the instruction is no longer valid).

This is our proposal, which can be used as a basis for the preparation of HSE instructions. However, it is worth taking into account the diversity of the work processes and the specificity of the establishments, which is why the instructions should be drawn up by a team.

If you have any questions about safety instructions, please contact us. Remember that only if the instructions are prepared within the organisation, we are able to better manage safety during individual work processes.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Every customer deserves an individual approach and a specially dedicated offer
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