WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT PLANS (WHSMP) AND THE NEW ACT

July 30 2015

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Western Australian governments public comment period for the green paper on the Work Health and Safety Act has now expired. We have seen the effects and changes required upon the gazetting of this legislation in the eastern states and members should commence preparations now in order to be compliant upon the inevitable gazetting and implementation here in Western Australia.

One of the most effective ways in identifying, assessing and managing workplace hazards and risks, along with meeting and providing evident to support your conformity to your legal requirements, is via an effective (and useable!) health and safety management plan.  A WHSMP is a set of plans, actions and procedures to systematically manage safety and health in the workplace that is actively endorsed by a committed employer to achieve the following:

  • Provision of a safe and healthy workplace and the prevention/reduction of illness and injury equally for employees and contractors
  • Identification of workplace hazards, assessment and control of all risks
  • Adequate communication and consultation with workers
  • Active involvement in safety and health matters by managers, supervisors and employees and their representatives
  • Provision of information and training for employees at all levels so they can work safely
  • Meet legislative requirements
  • Audit and review of the WHSMP

 Why should organisations be interested in WHSMP?

The purpose of an WHSMP is to systematically eliminate the possibility of accident, illness, injury or fatality in the workplace by ensuring that hazards in the workplace are identified, assessed and eliminated or controlled in a systematic manner, rather than waiting for an incident or injury to occur.

Employers have legal responsibilities to provide a safe workplace and plans of work, to consult with employees and to keep them informed about safety and health matters.

These responsibilities will increase when the national Work Health and Safety Act is gazetted within Western Australia, this year.

What are the benefits?

The primary benefit in implementing a WHSMP is the assistance it can provide in meeting the moral and legal responsibilities of any person (or entity) in control of a workplace.

Additional benefits include:

  • Prevention of injury and illness and/or damage
  • Reduced loss of working days due to injury and accidents
  • Lowered incidence of employee’s workers compensation claims
  • Reduction in workers compensation premiums
  • Minimised work stoppages due to safety disputes
  • Improved work methods and worker morale thus leading to improved productivity
  • Provides a framework for meeting legislative responsibilities
  • Less exposure to enforcement action from regulators
  • Makes a business tender for work more effective and appealing in meeting clients standards

What are the legal obligations?

The implementation of a WHSMP does not exempt an employer from meeting the requirements of the current WA Occupational Safety and Health Act and Regulations (or future Work Health and Safety Act). A WHSMP is not a substitute for the law or the outcomes required by the law however, a WHSMP should assist you to meet your legal obligations.

Should you be a main contractor on a construction site, with five (5) or more workers likely to be working on that site, then you are legally required to have a site specific WHSMP for that site.

What makes a WHSMP work?

Research on the effectiveness of WHSMP has consistently pointed to the importance of top management having genuine commitment, to achieve and maintain an effective plan that goes beyond mere legislative compliance.

An effective WHSMP requires active involvement with an emphasis on activity at all stages of operations. It includes broad consultation with the workforce and active involvement of key people such as management, supervisors, safety and health representatives, and Safety Committees.

It is important to put effort into continuous improvement, which is building in ways of periodically checking how you are doing and how to improve your plan, using feedback mechanisms, audits and inspections.

Developing a structured training strategy, with the ability to meet different language and education needs is a significant factor to attaining success.

An effective plan is more than a paper chase. It is about making sure that relevant changes occur, to improve OHS. However, documenting what you do is good business practice and can assist you in providing evidence of your actions should it be required in the future.

Five reasons why WHSMP succeed:

  • The WHSMP is directly aimed at managing risks and any other reasons for its existence are secondary
  • Senior management practice what they preach and make decisions to eliminate or reduce hazards
  • Supervisors and employees understand their role in the plan and are closely involved in its development and operation
  • The plan is commensurate with the risks to be managed and is absolutely tailored to the organisation’s requirements
  • The WHSMP is able to withstand, and welcomes, robust questioning and review from everyone involved

Five reasons why WHSMP fail:

  • Management support is irregular and inconsistent
  • Everyone treats the plan as paper warfare and follow procedures to keep the bosses happy regardless of their effectiveness
  • The WHSMP is established in response to external demands and never really owned or understood by those subject to it
  • The plan is imposed without effective consultation or participation by those who have to make it work
  • The effort to build an organisation specific plan is not made and off the shelf solutions are applied that have little relevance to the culture of the workplace

Where to start?

Safety Solutions WA provides advice and assistance to assist in developing an appropriate WHSMP suitable for your business requirements, or can review and audit your present plan to provide recommendations to enable you to show due diligence and continual improvement.

We have developed an online WHSMP that has been tailored to address your industry needs and legal requirements. Some members using this system have since gone on to have their organisation certified to AS/NZS: 4801 Risk Management level (generally considered as best practice).

The system is simple to use, provides you will all of the required tools to provide evidence of an implemented and used WHSMP and if you are time poor (like most business owners) we can come to you and carry out the full or part administration of your system for you, allowing you to get on with your core business functions.

For more information on WHSMP or to book an appointment to discuss options available to you, or for any other WHS inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact Safety Solutions WA.