50+ essential policies for different industries

Having a policy manual in place for your organization can reduce liability risk and help achieve accreditation. Discover the essential policies your organization needs.

November 8, 2021

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Having a policy manual in place for your organization can reduce your liability risk, protect you from lawsuits by former employees or the public, and help you achieve accreditation. They can also improve productivity and avoid errors by establishing best practices.

Of course, each industry and agency has different standards and regulations, so of course, most policies won't easily transfer from one to the other. There may be an overlap in a few instances, such as a uniform policy or infectious disease policy between police and EMS, but for the most part, each agency needs its own separate organizational policies.

That doesn't mean you have to write your policies from scratch or make it up as you go along, as most of the industries we serve have sample policies and model procedures that you can use as your jumping-off point.

There are also some policies that translate into every organization, such as anti-harassment/anti-bullying, tobacco use, cybersecurity, and conflict of interest. These can all be tailored to suit your particular industry or organization.

This article will share the most important policies to write for healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, fire and EMS departments, schools, and organizations in general. You can read more about the policies by following the links at the end of each section, or even explore the PowerDMS website and read about each individual policy.

Healthcare policies and procedures

Healthcare policies and procedures help facilities mitigate risk and reduce the possibility of serious errors, improve compliance with healthcare laws and regulations, and improve internal communication.

Importance of healthcare-specific policies

It's not melodramatic to say healthcare policy and procedures can mean the difference between life and death. Policies that reflect the best practices based on today's technology and scientific understanding can help a patient overcome an illness or injury that, five or ten years ago, might have killed them.

If staff members are working from contradictory procedures or making decisions based on out-of-date policies, they can commit grievous errors, share incomplete information, or make incorrect decisions. When that happens, a patient's or the staff's safety can be compromised.

10 important healthcare policies

Patient care policies. Whether your facility is a regional hospital, a small doctor's office, regional practice, or an emergency clinic, you need policies that detail the way your facility cares for patients. They should address the procedures you perform, the illnesses and injuries you treat, when to refer patients to other facilities, and when to transfer them. Your patient care policies should also explain how to handle particular medical situations, such as medical emergencies.

Workplace health and safety policies. Employees are the number one resource of any healthcare facility. They need policies that look out for their health and safety on the job. Policies should cover things like personal protective equipment (PPE); exposure to chemicals, infectious diseases, or drugs; and physical hazards in and around your facility.

Security policy. Whether or not your facility has a security team, your security policy should explain that security is everyone’s responsibility, not just the security professionals'. They need to know how to create a secure environment and contribute to the overall security of the facility.

Data privacy and IT security. There are myriad rules and regulations surrounding patient data and privacy, including cybersecurity. Your information security policies should equip employees at every level with the latest in best practices and procedures, including access levels, password creation, and the rules surrounding data leaks and privacy breaches.

Drug handling. Different facilities have different types and quantities of drugs on site. You need clear policies on how medication is administered, how it's recorded and charged, and what to do in case of an error or missing inventory.

Administrative and HR policies. These cover the running of the facility from a personnel and non-medical standpoint. After all, a medical practice of any kind is still a business and it has to deal with business-related issues like dress code, vacations, sick days, and shift changes.

Social media policies. Social media has created some complex challenges for healthcare workers. What can you post when at work? What about when staff members are off duty, but talking about work? There's a fine line between protecting the interests of the facility, patients' privacy, and employees' ability to speak freely. A social media policy will answer a lot of these questions and help to avoid problems in the future.

BYOD policy. Bring-your-own-device policies cover issues over whether people are allowed to have mobile phones and tablets at work. Since many IT policies already cover the way facility computers can be used (e.g., no social media at work), people often skirt them by using their own phones. BYOD policies will discuss whether and how phones can be used to access sensitive information, including work emails, internal documents, and patient information.

Infectious disease policy. Healthcare workers have a higher contact risk with infectious diseases, so this policy will help your employees be informed about best practices and regulations. This helps keep diseases from spreading among patients and workers and protects the organization from liability.

Code of ethics. It's nearly impossible to write enough healthcare policies to cover every situation. So it makes sense to create a code of ethics policy to provide the guiding principles for dealing with unexpected situations. You may not be able to dictate how a company culture should form, but you can codify a culture of respect, fairness, honesty, accountability, and compliance. The principles should start with the leadership team and trickle down through the organization.

You can learn more about the 10 important healthcare policies for your facility by visiting our website.

Law enforcement policies and procedures

A law enforcement policy and procedure manual helps ensure that your officers are in full compliance with any accreditation requirements, along with state or local regulations that affect your police work, such as police de-escalation training or a drone policy. This ultimately protects you from lawsuits and can improve relations with your local community.

Importance of law enforcement-specific policies

A police officer's job is to make snap decisions that can sometimes have a life-or-death impact, even as they're trying to serve and protect their local community. To help them succeed in their mission, it's important to equip them with law enforcement policies and the proper training to make the best decisions or render the best judgment for an unfamiliar situation. These policies will also promote accountability for their actions, which can further build trust with the community.

12 critical law enforcement policies

Law enforcement drone policy. If your agency uses drones, you must follow all state and federal regulations. However, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have concerns about the police using drones for surveillance or using armed drones. A good law enforcement drone policy establishes the parameters for using drones for law enforcement. It should address laws, regulations, and procedures, including how much surveillance is acceptable and how long you will keep images and video footage.

Social media policy. Agencies often use social media to communicate directly with citizens and gather information about crimes. But officers posting to their personal accounts can damage your department's reputation by posting something confidential or offensive. That can damage any goodwill with your community. You can't control what officers post on their personal accounts, but you can create guidelines and expectations of their personal integrity. It should also state what the department can post in an official capacity, 

Narcan policy. Narcan is used to save someone from an opioid overdose and is now available in a nasal spray. A Narcan policy should comply with state and local laws, as well as Good Samaritan laws, although some states don't allow Narcan use by police). A Narcan policy should cover when and how to administer it, how to work with people coming out of an overdose, and what to do once the subject is stabilized.

Body camera policy. Many departments have adopted body cameras, but sometimes officers turn them off before managing a situation. This policy will protect officers from accusations of misusing cameras or violating privacy and ensuring that camera use is helpful, not a burden. The policy should outline when officers can turn cameras off; limits of recording victims and witnesses; how long the department will keep videos; and when videos can be released to the media and the public.

Policing the mentally ill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 43.8 million adults struggle with mental illness each year. If officers don't have the proper training or guidance, interactions can often escalate. Studies have found that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other suspects, so many departments now train officers on recognizing signs of mental illness, crisis intervention, crisis intervention teams, and de-escalation.

Use-of-force policy. Establishes appropriate levels of force when dealing with subjects who resist arrest, act aggressively, or are armed. These incidents are one of the highest liability areas for police. Your department needs an up-to-date policy and to regularly train on it. It should define levels of force, including what constitutes deadly force. It should detail weapons use, de-escalation tactics, and detail appropriate and inappropriate uses of force.

Understanding the National Consensus Policy on Use of Force. In 2017, a group of law enforcement leadership organizations released their National Consensus Policy to provide guidance for law enforcement agencies to improve their own use-of-force policies. The policy stresses the need to "value and preserve human life." It provides guidelines for every incident that involves the use of force, and it instructs officers to stop using force once the incident is under control. It also encourages accountability and says officers should stop other officers from using excessive force when it's safe to do so.

Communicable disease policy. This policy is designed to protect officers as they interact with the public in a number of different settings. There are many ways officers can become infected with bloodborne and airborne illnesses. Your policy should have input from experts like local hospital and EMT leaders and should borrow definitions, contagions, and procedures. It should also contain information from CDC, OSHA, and NIOSH on communicable diseases in the workplace.

Active shooter response policy. This details the agency's response to the shooter, sets up an incident command, and provides roles for all first responders who arrive on the scene. It details the number of officers needed to enter a building, who's in charge, how to decide important roles, and what should be done as other officers arrive. Each policy should include many of the same elements, regardless of the city, county, or region.

Pursuit policy. A high-speed pursuit is a dynamically unfolding, high-liability situation where a lot of damage can result. Most policies prohibit high-speed pursuits unless the suspect has committed a violent crime, and urge officers to use detection methods to catch the suspect later. A policy is often written in chronological order and explains the decision-making process. It should include guidance in terms of road and traffic conditions, the weather, and the condition of the suspect's vehicle.

Racial profiling policy. Also called a bias-based policing policy, this sets the tone about what's expected of them when it comes to dealing with people of a different race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. It's required by most accreditation agencies. It says officers may not use race, color, ethnicity, or national origin as the motivating factor for enforcement. This policy shows that you're trying to promote diversity and that your police standards are fair and impartial.

Law enforcement take home car policy. A take home car policy protects the department from certain issues. It establishes who's responsible for insurance coverage while commuting or during off-duty hours and sets rules for things like speeding, maintenance, cleaning, and responding to an incident or emergency. It should also establish restrictions to off-duty driving; whether family members can ride; and dress code while driving off-duty; and how to be proactive in terms of operations, maintenance, and responding to an emergency.

You can learn more about 12 crucial law enforcement policies by visiting our website

Fire/EMS policies and procedures

Firefighters and EMS providers run toward danger when instincts tell us to run away. They save lives, help the hurt, and protect people, dealing with a great number of emergencies under a variety of conditions. They need to know how they should respond to incidents and what they can and can't do on duty (or off).

Importance of Fire/EMS-specific policies

An EMS and fire policy and procedures manual provides guidance and answers to almost everything the responders face. Policies help responders make the best decisions during an emergency or provide a decision-making framework for new situations. And they establish accountability for violations, as well as protect the department from lawsuits and insurance settlements.

Every fire and EMS department should have these seven policies in place, whether it's a big city agency or a small town firehouse.

7 essential policies for fire and EMS

CFAI accreditation. The Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) provides fire departments with accreditation to show that the department and staff are focused on improving and growing professionally. It helps enforce standards established by one of the leading fire safety agencies. Several other policies we mention below (e.g, uniform policy, infection control policy, fire department drug and alcohol policy) are required to meet CFAI standards.

Drone policies. Fire departments can use them to help commanders analyze a fire or emergency with cameras and thermal imaging technology. If your fire department uses drones, you're required to follow federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Law enforcement agencies also use drones, and the American Civil Liberties Union and civilian groups are concerned about their use. The fire service may get some spillover from those controversies, so a drone policy could put your community at ease. A good policy will address licensing and operation requirements, when they can and cannot be used, and answer questions about training and procedures.

Social media policy. Many firefighters have been suspended or fired because of inappropriate social media posts. This policy helps your fire and EMS responders use social media on their own time safely, effectively, and for the department's benefit. Be clear about what your employees are allowed to post and not post, the tone of voice, the types of content, who will post and speak for the department.

Incident command policies. All first responders, government agencies, tribal agencies, and non-governmental organizations use the incident command model when dealing with any emergency or crisis. Your policies should reflect current National Incident Management System thinking and application so your first responders know exactly where to slot into the incident command structure. It sets the stage for the response to an incident of any size, whether a multi-jurisdictional crisis or a small house fire. 

Drug and alcohol policy. This policy will state what substances can be used before or on duty and when; details investigations and consequences for violations; and protect the department if it's ever necessary to discipline, suspend, or fire an employee for violating the policy. It should also state how and how often firefighters and commanders should be tested, and explain the consequences of a failed test or if an employee is under the influence, and even rehab and return to duty options.

Infection control policy. This policy protects responders and the public by detailing preventative hygiene steps, cleaning a responder's uniform, equipment, and rig, and details post-exposure protocols and procedures. This keeps diseases from spreading among employees, other responders, in a hospital, or the public. A good policy will contain information from the experts, including guidance from the CDC, OSHA, and NIOSH regulations, as well as mask requirements and COVID vaccinations.

EMS uniform policy. Sets the standard for how responders dress, groom, maintain hygiene, and appear on the job, including hair length, beards and mustaches, jewelry, tattoos, and wearing a watch that displays seconds. It should set rules for how often uniforms are cleaned and sterilized to prevent infections and infectious diseases. An effective EMS uniform policy can put providers into a safety mindset and instill a sense of trust and reliability among the community.

You can learn more about 7 essential policies for fire departments and EMS by visiting our website

School policies and procedures

When you're a kid, school seems pretty simple. You show up in the morning and go home in the evening. But when you're an adult, especially if you work in a school, you realize how complex even a small school can be and how many moving parts it has.

There are rules, regulations, policies, and even laws that dictate how schools operate. To function effectively, a school needs clear policies and procedures to keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly.

Importance of school-specific policies

Well-written policies establish clear expectations about appropriate behavior in schools. They set accountability for breaking the rules. And they contribute to a safe environment where students can focus on learning rather than getting caught up in arguments over attendance or cell phones, or worry about bullying and harassment.

12 important school policies and procedures

Attendance policy. State and federal laws require schools to keep attendance records, so school policies and procedures on attendance have to make expectations abundantly clear to parents, students, and staff. The state or local school board establishes many of the specific attendance guidelines. Handbooks for parents and students should include clear, jargon-free language on the benefits of full attendance.

Dress code. There have been several protests in recent years over school dress codes that are seen as sexist or unfair. Schools can avoid this by creating clear dress code policies that apply to the entire student body. They cannot target one particular group of students, or be enforced in a way that could be seen as discriminatory. Clear policies will also save teachers from having to subjectively decide whether a student’s clothing counts as "revealing," which can be awkward.

Cell phones and electronic devices. Many schools allow students to carry cell phones as long as they keep them turned off or on silent, but allowing phones can be problematic. Studies have shown that schools that ban cell phones have better educational outcomes as cheating, cyberbullying, and taking pictures or videos can be problems. Clear school policies and procedures make practices more consistent. Students don’t have to wonder what devices they are allowed to use and when and teachers know how to enforce the rules.

Bullying and sexual harassment. Bullying can take many different forms: physical threats, verbal or emotional bullying, or cyberbullying. Sexual harassment can also take different forms: unwanted physical contact, inappropriate comments or jokes, demand for sexual favors. These policies make it easier to identify bullying or sexual harassment and to hold perpetrators accountable. They should define what qualifies as bullying or harassment and lay out steps for reporting it, as well as define procedures for investigating claims and consequences.

Student code of conduct. Covers day-to-day student behavior. The details will differ depending on the specific school but should establish guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate behavior. A good code of conduct sets expectations and boundaries, brings clarity and consistency in practices across the school, and helps teachers and administrators know how to address behavioral issues. Like all policies and procedures, the code of conduct should change and grow with the school community.

Fighting/weapons. Provides definitions and examples of dangerous objects that are banned from campus and explains any state or local laws that govern weapons or violence in schools. It should also establish the consequences of bringing dangerous objects to school. Having clear policies in place can prevent students from accidentally bringing dangerous objects to school. If a violent incident does occur, these policies and procedures ensure that everyone knows what to do to stay safe.

Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Many schools have adopted Zero Tolerance policies regarding drugs and alcohol, but a 2015 study showed that such draconian policies may actually be making the problem worse. Instead, as one educational group suggests: "The most effective policies pertaining to the use, possession, and distribution of these substances are both comprehensive and compassionate. They emphasize prevention and nondisciplinary intervention, as well as fair and consistent discipline, to hold students accountable for their behavior."

Dismissal procedure. Most days, end-of-day school dismissal is fairly simple, but schools never want to find they released a child to an unauthorized person or that the parent did not know where the child is. The dismissal procedure policy should cover early dismissal, authorized guardians, severe weather, and how the school will handle dismissal during an emergency. It may be seen as a hassle to some, but will ultimately give parents peace of mind.

Academic dishonesty. School policies should spell out how to handle cheating and plagiarism. This takes the onus off the individual teachers so that they don’t have to determine how to discipline the student, and makes it consistent for everyone. It also makes students aware of what will happen if they choose to cheat. They won't be able to talk their way out of the consequences or have to protest against an unfairly applied, inconsistent policy.

Student clubs and athletics. Spelling out expectations for clubs and athletics will help avoid accusations of discrimination, such as requiring a certain GPA for all student-athletes. It can also detail requirements for non-students who want to lead after-school clubs. What access will they have to school facilities? What paperwork or charters are required? What goals are acceptable? Finally, make sure all standards apply to all students, whether athletics or student clubs.

Student search and seizure. Courts have ruled that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments don’t apply to students as they do to adults. Police officers need "probable cause" before searching private property, but teachers and administrators only need "reasonable suspicion" that a student has broken the law or violated school policy. However, there are limits to how far a school can go with searches and seizures. Clear policies can reduce liability and help avoid expensive and public lawsuits.

Disciplinary guidelines. Individual teachers should not decide disciplinary steps for students, because it leads to inconsistencies and possible favoritism or discrimination. Instead, it should lay out all the steps of the disciplinary process. They should be fair and written so students can understand them. They should also include who is authorized to invoke each form of discipline. For example, a teacher might be able to assign detention, a principal or administrator may have to sign off on a suspension, and the school board may have to approve an expulsion.

You can learn about the importance of clear policies and procedures in schools on our website.

Essential policies, regardless of industry

Well-written policies, regardless of industry, create efficiency by streamlining internal processes, reducing liability risks, and setting the tone for company culture and communication styles. It establishes the bar for acceptable and unacceptable behavior and creates a sense of accountability for people who violate those policies.

Importance of these policies

Some policies help companies comply with employment laws and licensing requirements, and guide core aspects of their business. These are 10 policies every organization should have, although they should be specific to your organization.

For example, conflict of interest policies may look different for a police department versus a school, although they're important for both areas. They should explain what is allowed and what's not, and even establish consequences for violations.

10 essential policies for every workplace

Anti-harassment/anti-discrimination. These are necessary to limit your organization’s liability and are the first steps in complying with U.S. employment laws about equal employment, civil rights, and discrimination. Clear, thorough policies and training can set the tone for an inclusive, respectful work environment that keeps your organization out of court and ensures your employees feel safe and comfortable at work. The policies should provide simple definitions and examples, lay out the process for reporting, and consequences for violation.

Social media. Employers need to be proactive in creating clear guidelines for employees. Key aspects worth considering are access allowed on the job; creating and approving content for company accounts; protecting confidential information; and what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Left unchecked, social media could lead to confidential information unintentionally being shared online, or an employee could share something that reflects poorly on your organization. Clear guidelines tell your employees what is and isn’t acceptable.

Workplace safety. Whether operating heavy machinery, stocking shelves, or sitting at computers, employees face some level of risk. Workplace safety policies help prevent accidents. They also ensure compliance with OSHA regulations. Your safety policies should define proper procedures for potentially dangerous tasks. They should also cover procedures for emergency situations such as a fire or an active shooter. Good workplace safety policies help employees know how to safely perform their jobs and know what to do in the case of an emergency.

Code of conduct. Besides laying out acceptable behavior, a code of conduct should detail what will not be tolerated. What constitutes misconduct may differ on the company and work culture (e.g., profanity, dress code), but usually includes things like theft; damaging company property; sharing company secrets; unscheduled absences or chronic lateness; and so on. The policy can even include non-workplace incidents, such as posting offensive content on social media, even during non-work hours.

Conflict of Interest. A situation where the personal interests of employees, board members, or contractors might act in conflict with the organization. They often benefit the individual but also harm the company. This policy governs incidents where an employee works against the company’s best interest, whether to enrich themselves or harms the company. This explains what employees should and shouldn’t do, and creates consequences for violations.

BYOD policy. It’s important to set expectations for how employees can use their personal technology in the workplace. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies can help employers because it saves on technology costs if employees use their own devices. But it also comes with challenges, like making sure devices are secure and that employees don’t use them for personal reasons during work. You should also protect your organization against liability by expressly prohibiting workers from performing illegal activities while connected to the company network.

Information security. Cyberattacks increase by 400 percent each year, and data breaches can cost businesses millions. This policy helps control access and prevent unauthorized access or data leaks. It should cover all the ways you protect your information, such as creating effective passwords, using two-factor authentication, and biometric security. It should also cover the training needed to prepare your employees for potential threats.

Acceptable use. Because employees do so much work online, they may inadvertently do something they shouldn’t and use their technology inappropriately. Your acceptable use policy explains how people can use websites, networks, or internet services, including prohibiting users from uploading or downloading certain types of files, harassing others, or leaking company information. Inappropriate behavior often leads to cybersecurity breaches. Employees need to know that illegal or inappropriate behavior won’t be allowed, setting clear expectations and making it easier to enforce accountability.

Mobile device management. Most people now use their smartphones for work, or at least in the workplace. There are also laptops, tablets, e-readers, and wearable tech. This policy details how employees should use mobile technology and how to protect it from cybersecurity threats. This should apply to all employees, full- and part0time, and all the devices they use.

Workplace tobacco use. Tobacco use has decreased over the years, but more than 10% of adults use tobacco. Tobacco hurts those who use it, but secondhand smoke is a danger to other employees too, which means its use is regulated in many states. A tobacco policy can protect you from liability, as well as tell employees to know where and when they can use tobacco. And it assures non-smoking employees that they will be protected.

You can learn more about 10 essential policies for any organization on our website.

Final thoughts

Policies and procedures are important to any organization with a lot of moving parts, especially if you serve an outside constituency or community. It provides a standard of care and responsibility that each member of your agency is expected to meet. So it’s important to identify gaps in your policy processes, especially if you’re trying to achieve or maintain accreditation.

Your agency may have different standards from the other ones mentioned here, but you still strive to meet a level of excellence, and your policy manual can help you set that expectation.

Even though each industry mentioned on this page may have its own standards and policies, PowerDMS provides customers access to 250+ standards manuals. You can map current policies to accrediting standards and identify gaps in your compliance, all while saving time and money.

Be sure to visit the PowerDMS website to download our white paper, How to write effective policies, which includes a few free policy templates to get you started.

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