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Health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions imposes a duty on persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to have a safe system of work. This requires the development of a safety management system.

A safety management system is designed to ensure that health and safety issues are addressed in a systematic and integrated way.

Importantly, if you have an effective safety management system in place, it is unlikely you or your officers will be liable for any behaviour of a worker that causes risk of injury or illness to themselves or others. A safety management system could, however, expose a worker who fails to follow that system to liability and entitle you to take disciplinary action against the worker.

A safety plan is a strategic action plan that forms part of the business plan. It analyses the current and prospective risks for a company, then charts how the risks will be eradicated or controlled over a calendar period.

A safety plan involves having a governance structure within your company that will make sure every worker clearly understands how to comply with their safety obligations and is held accountable for their actions.

A safety plan should also describe the health and safety structure of your business. It should set out responsibilities and authorities, and determine who is accountable for all health and safety issues in your business.

Set up a consultation system with your workers about health and safety matters that affect them. This is most commonly done through a health and safety committee or representative.

Your workers need to be kept up-to-date about what’s happening in the business to ensure their ongoing safety. They should receive regular safety feedback from you, including information on:

  • the hazards that have been identified;
  • the risk levels associated with those hazards;
  • the control measures that have been implemented, and
  • that they should feel free to report incidents to managers.

Develop and implement processes for:

  • identifying hazards and risks;
  • ensuring that hazard and risk identification is conducted on a regular basis; and
  • implementing safe operating procedures to control the risks.

Written policies and procedures provide the framework for how your safety plan will be achieved.

It’s important to have a thorough record and document management system in place and ensure it is followed by everyone in your business.

All records should be stored appropriately and should be easily accessible for workers.

Establish a training and induction program for new or recently transferred workers as well as systems for the ongoing training of current workers.

The only way to ensure your workers are carrying out their safety obligations is to provide adequate supervision.

The level of supervision required in your workplace will increase if the level of safety control put in place to reduce a risk is low, e.g. if a control measure is not very effective at reducing risk, workers will require a higher level of supervision. This will often be the case where personal protective equipment (PPE) is relied on to protect workers.

Your obligations to monitor your workplace depend on your workplace’s specific needs and circumstances. The higher the risk, the more frequent and detailed the monitoring needs to be.

Are you liable for the actions of your workers?

Workers in all jurisdictions are required to perform certain health and safety duties. If one of your workers breaches their duties, both you and your worker could be held liable.

If someone is exposed to a risk due to the carelessness of one of your workers, you and your company could be charged with breaching your primary duty to provide a safe workplace.

The introduction of specific software packages has made safety management just that little bit easier by being able to improve a number of key areas in the operation of a WHS management system.

For instance, software can help with:

  • incident reporting and investigation;
  • auditing;
  • training;
  • contractor management; and
  • injury management.

Any business looking to develop and improve the effectiveness of its safety management system should look to utilise available software packages.


Top stories for Safety Management


Your questions answered: Can employees skip their lunch break and leave early instead?

Safety Management

Q I understand that we must provide a 30-minute break for full-time workers, but is the worker obligated to take such a break? For example, if a worker requests to undertake their required hours and leave early, rather than extend […]

By Portner Press on March 12th, 2020

Electric shock incident reiterates the need for testing and tagging

Safety Management

  In an incident that should resonate with most employers, a hospital worker in Victoria received a severe electric shock when they touched a power cord which had damaged protective outer insulation. WorkSafe Victoria, who investigated the matter, issued a […]

By Michael Selinger on October 31st, 2019

3 steps to mitigate the risks of working near powerlines

Safety Management

In a reminder of the importance of performing a Job Safety Analysis to assess local conditions, the Queensland Electrical Safety Office and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have reported that they are investigating an incident where a mobile crane contacted […]

By Michael Selinger on October 8th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we request a health and safety representative to attend a training course?

Safety Management

Q Can a PCBU (e.g. a principal contractor) require a health and safety representative (HSR) to attend the five-day course in health and safety consultation? Our company is based in NSW. A In NSW, section 72 of the Work Health […]

By Portner Press on August 27th, 2019

Company fined $150,000 for plumber’s electric shock injuries

Safety Management

  The dangers of not following a safe work procedure was demonstrated again in the recent decision of SafeWork NSW v Spectra Plumbing Pty Limited (2019). In that decision, Spectra Plumbing Pty Limited (‘the plumbing company’) was prosecuted and fined […]

By Michael Selinger on August 23rd, 2019

Your questions answered: Are all drivers required to hold a Blue Card?

Safety Management

Q Please can you advise if Blue Cards are mandatory for all drivers? A The Blue Card training system was established by the TWU and is conducted by the Transport Education Audit Compliance Health Organisation (TEACHO). There is no mandatory […]

By Portner Press on August 22nd, 2019
electrical safety tagging

Your questions answered: What legal obligations do we have to tag and test appliances in our workplace?

Safety Management

Q Could you please direct me to the act or regulation that states that testing and tagging must be carried out in the workplace? Our company is based in NSW. A In New South Wales, Part 4.7 of the Work […]

By Portner Press on August 15th, 2019

Your questions answered: Are some online inductions no more than a box-ticking exercise?

Safety Management

Q Many organisations provide contractor inductions through an online system that the contractor completes before they come on site. Given that a contractor may do a site induction some weeks before attending the site, and has probably attended other worksites […]

By Portner Press on August 1st, 2019

How to manage contractors at your worksite

Safety Management

If any contractor or subcontractor on your worksite is injured, you can be held concurrently liable. Concurrent liability is when two or more parties are found independently liable for the same incident. In terms of health and safety, this means […]

By Portner Press on July 25th, 2019

Your questions answered: How far does our obligation extend to ensure principal contractors comply with safety recommendations?

Safety Management

Q We engage principal contractors on our construction projects. We also engage a third party to conduct audits on each principal contractor once per year on each of their projects. We then coordinate the completion of any actions in response […]

By Portner Press on July 18th, 2019