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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


Death of worker at power station caused by equipment fault

Safety Management

An electricity provider has determined that its failure to detect a deficiency in its equipment led directly to the death of one of its workers who had otherwise been correctly following procedures. The internal investigation by Energy Australia found that […]

By Portner Press on July 2nd, 2019

Company fined $250K over electric shock to worker

Safety Management

A family-run billboard company in Queensland has been fined $250,000 after one of its workers received an electric shock from an overhead powerline. The worker at Paradise Outdoor Building Company Pty Ltd had been changing the skin on an advertising […]

By Portner Press on June 20th, 2019

Your questions answered: How many consecutive days can someone work?

Safety Management

You should consider whether any of your employees are covered by a modern award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement, in particular, the Building and Construction Award or Electrical Award. Such agreements will likely provide details around the permissible number […]

By Michael Selinger on June 14th, 2019

Why students on work experience need extra protection

Safety Management

Many workplaces welcome students who are required to undertake work experience or work practice in industry as part of their education. These students can be as young as 16 – in Year 10 – through to doctoral students from tertiary […]

By Portner Press on May 31st, 2019

The deviant workers you DON’T see

Safety Management

New research has uncovered a concerning consequence of workplace bullying that could silently be damaging your business. Frequent exposure to workplace bullying not only leads to health problems in the victims, but can also cause them to engage in deviant […]

By Portner Press on May 30th, 2019

Cheap imports come at a tragic price

Safety Management

A company and its director have been fined $1.2 million after selling a faulty submersible pump that caused a woman to be electrocuted to death. Pump Factory Pty Ltd had imported hundreds of the pumps from a Chinese manufacturer and […]

By Portner Press on May 21st, 2019

Property manager cannot discharge OHS duties to contractor

Safety Management

In an important decision in March, the NSW District Court found a property manager of a building guilty of breaching its primary duty of care to ensure safety by failing to arrange or verify that a major 10-year inspection of […]

By Michael Selinger on May 3rd, 2019

Sound contractor management system saves PCBU from prosecution

Safety Management

A contractor safety management system. This is what spelt the difference between a very hefty penalty and a not guilty verdict over a contractor’s death. In SafeWork NSW v The Austral Brick Co Pty Limited (2018), SafeWork NSW alleged that […]

By Portner Press on April 30th, 2019

Your questions answered: What obligations do we have to ensure our principal contractors are complying with safety recommendations from third-party audits?

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 to the audit with the principal […]

By Portner Press on April 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: How long are our sales reps allowed to drive for?

Safety Management

Q: Is there any legislation or other guidelines about how many hours sales representatives should be allowed to drive in a day using their own vehicles?

By Portner Press on March 8th, 2019