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A workplace health and safety management system (WHSMS) is a recommended method for establishing company-wide systems and process for following WHS legislation and offering further protection to the health and safety of a workforce.

What is the Aim of a Work Health and Safety Management System?

The aim of a safety management system is to help identify hazards and manage risks to reduce the likelihood of occurrence of workplace injuries. It provides clear guidelines for following safety protocols. The WHSMS also includes processes for maintaining worker health and safety standards.

A WHSMS covers all aspects of worker safety within an organisation. It provides a framework for identifying which areas are in need of improvement and ensuring procedures are implemented for the reporting hazards.

What is the Structure of a WHS Safety Management System?

It is up to each organisation to develop its own system. There are several sources that outline a basic WHS management system structure, including AS/NZS 4801:2001 and AS/NZS 4804:2001. Since 2018, ISO 45001 has now replaced both 4801 and 4804.The standards recommend an organisational structure dedicated to the following:

  • Minimising and avoiding workplace injuries;
  • Providing for continual evaluation and improvement; and
  • Ensuring compliance.

The first section directly addresses existing policies and procedures for identifying and managing risks. Organisations must then implement methods for evaluating and improving these practices across their operations. At the same time, the system must comply with OSH/WHS laws in your state or territory.

Effective systems need to also define how the organisation is prepared to manage risk. The system should actively identify known risks and select suitable risk management controls. The steps require communication across all levels of the organisation. Risk management policies should provide written guidelines for defining WHS goals and target outcomes. These systems also need to establish the health and safety responsibilities of everyone involved in managing risks and hazards. This should define who is responsible for what area of risk and who reports to who in the event that risk mitigation is required.

All parties must understand their roles and safety responsibilities in connection with WHS Act. There are online WHS act awareness training courses to help explain these obligations. The courses are self-paced and available for workers, managers and officers.

WHS systems also require continual monitor, review and evaluation. Organisations must define metrics for measuring the effectiveness of their policies and implementation. These steps are necessary for the continual improvement of WHS management policies and risk management processes.

What are the Key Elements of a WHS Management System?

The framework structure of an occupational health and safety management system can be further divided into key components for maintaining an efficient WHSMS. Each system needs methods for implementing the details outlined in the structure. These essential elements include:

  • Safety plans;
  • Policies and procedures;
  • Training;
  • Monitoring;
  • Supervision; and
  • Reporting.

Organisations utilise safety plans to outline specific health and safety procedures for different environments and work areas. These documented health and safety rules within a safety plan can ensure that all workers are able to understand their obligations. The rules and plans assist in holding everyone accountable.

Health and safety management policies and procedures establish an overarching framework for following safety plans. Each organisation must devise their own system. The policies may include details related to recordkeeping, hazard inspections and incident reporting.

WHSMS training is a broad category. Besides WHS training courses for workers, organisations need to train everyone who conducts work tasks on a work site. Every worker, contractor, volunteer, visitor and officer needs to understand their obligations and duties to the company, the work site and to each other under the WHS Act.

Officers and supervisors must also monitor and supervise the safety performance of their workforce. Monitoring often includes risk and task assessments that are completed before work begins. Supervision ensures that workers are following their safety requirements.

The final element is reporting. Safety reporting occurs at every level of an organisation. Workers and managers need to report and rectify unsafe hazards and conditions whilst board members also have an obligation to remain aware of safety issues being experienced by the workforce.

What Is a WHS Management Plan?

A WHS management plan is an important part of the work health and safety system. The plan is drafted prior to work commencing and provides a detailed outline for following safety protocols. It typically includes the names and positions of all responsible parties.

The safety plan also includes arrangements related to the following:

  • Assessing the hazards of the work site;
  • Taking reasonable steps to minimise risks;
  • Managing any safety issues that occur;
  • Following company WHSMS rules; and
  • Monitoring and reviewing the safety of the work site.

This is just an overview of the typical WHSMS. Developing an effective system requires organisations to evaluate their existing safety practices whilst finding ways to improve workplace safety.

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