If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might’ve noticed a couple of keywords we use regularly. 

If you ever find yourself wondering what all these words are, never fear! 

In this month’s article, we’ll be deep-diving into the meaning behind words like processes, policies, and procedures – words you hear often when working in the trade industry. 

You might already know some or all of these words, but we’re here to break them into bite-sized, easy-to-digest pieces in case you feel like you need a reminder. 

While many of these terms and their meanings overlap, we’ll try our best to make them easy to understand.

While it would be easier for everyone if we could just pop in a dictionary definition and get on with our day, the dictionary somehow manages to make it more confusing. 

So, to summarise, when we’re talking about a policy, we’re talking about the guidelines that govern your business. 

A process refers to steps taken to complete a job or task. 

And a procedure is a more detailed view of the process.

Written like this, they all seem a bit like twelve of one, half a dozen of the other, so let’s go deeper. 

1. Policies

Your policies are the backbone of your business and how it functions. Without solid policies in place, your business becomes ungovernable. 

Policies can cover things like sick, annual, and parenting leave. 

It’ll cover aspects like start and finishing time, uniform, and even behaviour and conduct. 

Without policies in place – and you enforcing them – a business might end up with employees showing up three hours late in boardies and thongs, instead of on-time and dressed in appropriate attire. 

Safety policies are of particular importance since they’re in place to prevent injury and death. 

A policy to wear safety boots and a hard hat on a construction site is crucial to prevent losing or breaking a toe (or a foot!) or injuring your head if you happen to knock into a low beam. 

It’s standard policy within the trade industry to require the use of safety goggles when welding or not to allow unauthorised people on site. 

At the end of the day, a safe worksite is a happy worksite. If everyone goes home safe and intact at the end of a workday, your life as a manager or business owner is that much easier.

The buck stops with you, so always ensure your safety policies are up-to-date, easy to access, and followed by your staff.

2. Processes

If your policies explain why things should be done a certain way, your processes are the “what” that has to be done to get the desired result.

Processes are a series of related tasks that turn inputs into outputs. 

  • Inputs (information or materials)
  • The tasks that make up the process
  • Output- the results

In the trade industry, processes are the practical things-eg. materials+construction= building. 

The above is a massive simplification since we all know there is a lot more involved, but that’s where the procedure comes in.

From an OHS perspective, your process might refer to what needs to be done in the event of an emergency.

3. Procedures

So, you have the “why” in your policy, and the “what” in your processes, but procedures are your “how”. 

Procedures are a far more detailed view of the process. 

Where the process will tell you what needs to be done to complete a task, a procedure will tell you who is responsible for each aspect of the task, when each part occurs, and the specifications of each part of the task. 

For example, your policy allows for x amount of annual leave. 

The procedure will cover how to go about applying for that leave and getting it approved. 

In terms of safety, policies and procedures are the aspects we focus on the most.

The policy may be to always wear steel-capped boots, so the procedure might state how employees access them. 

While the business sets some policies and procedures, all companies within the trade industry will have specific guidelines to follow which are set by the regulator. 

And while some of the government guidelines are the same or similar, each state has its own Worksafe site to refer back to. 

Businesses like us here at OHS Compliance Solutions exist because it can be challenging to follow and comply with legislation and understand what policies and procedures you may need especially in higher-risk work. 

We serve to ensure your policies and procedures are up to date, compliant, and effective.  We also try to format these in a simplistic manner so that you are not overwhelmed by paperwork – this means often you have only one Procedure for a particular issue, which can encompass a Policy and Procedure in one. 

But policies, processes, and procedures are really only on paper. 

If they aren’t followed and complied with in practice, they may as well not even exist, so it’s vital to ensure your staff stick to them. 

It’s also crucial to keep your policies and procedures up to date. 

We like to use the December or January blog to remind our clients and readers that there’s no better time than the new year to start reviewing what you already have in place. 

We’ve covered this in previous blogs, which you can read here

In the meantime, if this blog has reminded you to double-check your policies and procedures, feel free to contact us on [email protected] for some guidance- and have a merry Christmas!

All PostsProcess, Policy, or Procedure: A Guide to OHS Buzzwords