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Workplace Health and Safety Management Systems – What Are They and Do You Need One?

A workplace health and safety management system is a set of policies, procedures and plans that provides the methodology that is to be used to both implement and manage health and safety in the workplace and to minimise the risk of injury and illness.

A workplace health and safety management system further provides a documented framework that can be used to manage and maintain compliance, and should include the following:

  • Policies which address your commitment as an employer to the management of health and safety in the workplace.
  • Documented accountabilities, roles and responsibilities.
  • Document control and review processes.
  • Consultation strategies.
  • Training and induction programs and records.
  • WHS registers and records.
  • Safe work method statements and procedures.
  • Risk Assessments.
  • Hazard, Incident and Accident reporting, recording, investigation and analysis.
  • Specific work health and safety procedures and programs.
  • Processes and records of monitoring, measurement and evaluation undertaken of work health and safety management system implementation and operation.

For a workplace health and safety management system to be successful, the commitment of senior management is essential.

While all employers are required to comply with the applicable workplace health and safety legislation, the complexity of the workplace health and safety management system will depend on the size and nature of the business. Similarly the content of the workplace health and safety management system will depend on the nature of the work and tasks being performed, how it is managed and how well other business systems operate.
When developing or implementing a workplace health and safety management system, it is important to understand the specific work health and safety legislation requirements that apply in the particular jurisdiction in which the business operates.

Where to start?

Although the specific areas to be managed in a workplace health and safety management system will depend on the nature of the business, there are several aspects of risk management that will require attention irrespective of the nature of the activities undertaken. These areas will include:

  • management commitment, responsibilities and accountability
  • incident management,
  • first aid systems,
  • emergency management processes,
  • near miss, accident and incident reporting and investigation
  • manual handling tasks and activities, including risk assessments, training and documentation
  • supervision of workers, including contractors, and the health and safety skill development of supervisors
  • plant management, including maintenance systems, repair and replacement
  • consultation processes involving management and workers
  • registers such as hazardous chemicals register, injury register, induction register, electrical equipment register
  • risk assessments on some specific tasks and activities being performed by the business, and
  • training and induction of employees, visitors and contractors.

As a starting point, as an employer you should review the items listed above and identify which of these processes you currently have in place, for example, do you already have an up to date Workplace Health and Safety policy statement?
Performing a gap analysis will help identify what resources may be required and where your resources can be targeted.

Safety Advice Online members have access to a broad range of online templates and resources that will support them through the implementation of WHS processes and procedures.

Communication and consultation is essential

The key to the successful implementation of a workplace health and safety management system is consultation and communication with all workers across the organisation. The requirement to consult is also a legal obligation under health and safety legislation.

Relevant Australian Standards

There are two Australian/New Zealand Standards that are relevant to workplace health and safety management system. These are:

  • AS/NZS 4804:2001 Occupational health and safety management systems - General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques - This Standard provides guidance on the development and implementation of safety management systems and principles, and their integration with other management systems.
  • AS/NZS 4801:2001 Occupational health and safety management systems - Specification with guidance for use -This standard sets out requirements for a health and safety management system, and the requirements may be used for auditing and certification purposes.


If you do not already have a workplace health and safety management system in place, it is recommended that you take steps to determine the preferred work health and safety management system structure, and:

  1. Gain commitment from the management team.
  2. Review your current business systems and undertake a gap analysis to determine what systems and structures are required.
  3. Determine resource requirements and availability.
  4. Establish consultation and communication methodologies.
  5. Prepare a project plan and schedule for the development and implementation of the management system.

If you require support with implementing a health and safety management system, please contact the team at HR Advice Online [email protected] or 1300 720 004.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such

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