Easy OHS

The Importance of a Safety Management Plan

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There have been a number of recent issues that all business owners should take careful note of. Government agencies and large businesses are tightening their safety requirements for contractors.  This may include the requirement to produce safety management plans and procedures. 
In today's competitive world, contractors who are unable to demonstrate they have proficient safety systems face the prospect of missing out on tenders, contracts or being placed on preferred provider lists. 

So what specifically is the big end of town and government agencies asking for?

The first item is usually a Safety Management Plan (also called a Safety Plan, Site Specific Safety Management Plan, OHS plan).    A safety management plan is a document that sets out how your specific business manages its legal obligations to provide a safe place of work and safe systems of work.

Key items that (as a minimum) will be asked for:

- OHS Policy Statement
- Roles and Responsibilities in managing safety
- Consultation methods (how the employer and employee consult on safety issues)
- Hazard management and risk identification and control methods
- Inspections and monitoring
- Safe work procedures (sometimes called JSA, SWP, SWI, SWMS)
- Accident and return to work processes


On the internet you will find many 'Safety Management Plans' for sale that you can download - ranging in price from $30 to $3000.  Some are 10 pages, some are 100+ pages.   To add to the confusion, some make the claim that once you have a plan - that is all you need.  Right......WRONG!!

Simply downloading and filling out a safety management plan template - will not make you compliant.  It may help in winning a tender, but if you have no system to back it up, then you could land yourself in serious trouble if something goes wrong.  How so you may ask......

When things go wrong...

Let's look at a practical example.  Jim runs a small concreting company which employs three men.  He applies for a tender to carry out footpath replacement for a local government agency.  Jim is advised he needs to submit his safety management plan and safe work procedures.   Jim does not have anything in place, so he downloads a safety plan which costs him $399 and throws in a few procedures provided to him by an associate.   

Jim wins the tender, but does not bother doing anything that is mentioned in the safety management plan. 

The tender is for six months work.  Two months into the job, an agitator truck reversing for a concrete pour hits one of Jim's workers.  The worker's leg becomes trapped under the wheel of the truck and he is critically injured.  Inspectors from the state workplace safety authority are called to the scene by Police. 

Now Jim - at some stage is going to be interviewed about the accident that occurred.  The government body who gave Jim the tender will point the finger squarely at Jim as his company is an independent contractor.

In the safety management plan inspectors see that there is a SWP (Safe work procedure) for concreting operations.  One of the steps includes reversing the agi-truck to pour concrete.  A hazard of 'being crushed by truck' is identified.  Controls include - use of chocks on sloping ground, no person to stand near reversing truck, use of designated spotters, high visibility clothing....etc.

The problem is that when the inspector starts questioning Jim, none of the controls were in place, the safe work procedure had not been signed off by any of the staff members - who in fact did not even know of its existence.    The inspector, smelling blood in the water, digs deeper into the Safety Management Plan and establishes that nothing has actually been implemented.....

How is this scenario looking for Jim?  Not good at all. 

In fact, Jim is heading to court, he faces the prospect of a large fine against not only his company but also personal liability.  He is looking at a possible criminal conviction, the moral blame for not keeping his workers safe and financial ruin.....

The moral of the story - get a safety plan and a system that supports the plan.  Ensure you are implementing the plan and ensure you have records that can back this up. 


The EasyOHS system is one of the few programs out there, that can supply a Safety Management Plan based on using an actual safety program to support it.  It is not just meaningless paperwork.  If the EasyOHS system is used correctly, it can help demonstrate (and record) each of the key compliance areas.

You will not be able to do it all overnight, but chip away at it and you will quickly increase your compliance level and work towards a safer workplace.


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