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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: 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

Your questions answered: Does a WHS committee member need extra training?

Safety Management

Q: Our company in NSW has just elected its first WHS committee. Must we provide anyone with official training to be a part of the WHS committee?

By Portner Press on February 12th, 2019

Your questions answered: What insurance information should we seek from contractors?

Safety Management

Q: What insurance documents do we need our contractors to provide us with before conducting work at our site?

By Portner Press on February 5th, 2019

Uber “chooses to wash its hands of all responsibilities”

Safety Management

  The question of Uber’s lack of health and safety accountability has been raised again, following the conviction of an Uber driver in Sydney this Monday over the death of a passenger. The driver had failed to notice one of […]

By Portner Press on November 30th, 2018

Managing fatigued workers

Safety Management

All workplaces should have a fatigue policy, and educate supervisors and managers on how to identify and manage fatigue.

By Portner Press on November 15th, 2018

How do we approach employees about poor hygiene?

Safety Management

Q: We have a delicate situation in relation to personal hygiene within our company. How do we approach employees about poor hygiene?

By Portner Press on November 13th, 2018
electrical safety tagging

Your questions answered: Testing times

Safety Management

Q: Do air conditioners that have a visible power cord need to be tagged and tested every 5 years?

By Portner Press on November 9th, 2018

Electrical contractor receives 300k fine for apprentice death

Safety Management

Melbourne electrical contractor 3 Point Electrics Pty Ltd was hit with a $300K fine following the death of an apprentice.

By Portner Press on October 19th, 2018

Your questions answered: What are the insurance requirements for subcontractors?

Safety Management

  Q Our question relates to the safety responsibility and liability our business has for subcontractors of a nominated contractor. The scenario is: Our business – Controller of premises Contractor A – Principal contractor (mechanical services company) Contractor B – […]

By Portner Press on October 16th, 2018