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What is a safety management plan?

A safety management plan may also be known as a WHS management plan or a construction site safety plan. The site specific safety management plan is a document that helps communicate how safety is going to be managed on a construction site, and who is responsible for ensuring compliance.

In most states in Australia there is a requirement for a safety management plan to be prepared prior to start of works and for all workers to have access to it.

The safety management plan must be reviewed and updated as works progress and new hazards are identified.

A safety management plan sets out the systems and processes that will be put in place to manage health and safety risks on a construction site. It should identify who is responsible for each aspect of health and safety, how risks will be controlled, what training is required and how safety will be monitored.

Safe-R Outcomes WHS Plan

Who needs a safety management plan?

Each state and territory is different, and there is specific legislation that sets out who needs to provide one. In most states if you are a Principal Contractor and the works are worth more than $250 000 you need to have a safety management plan.

However, in practice any construction work that involves more than one contractor, is of a high-risk nature or is not straightforward in design or execution will require a safety management plan. This is because in the legislation a PCBU (business owner) must manage the safety of their workers and anyone else who may be affected by the works, and having a safety management plan can help meet that burdon of proof.

Plus, it can help ensure everyone is aware of the hazards, risks and controls of the work by communicating important information prior to the start of work. It makes it hard for a contractor to say they didn’t know something was a site rule if they have been supplied with a safety management plan plus a safe work method statement before stepping foot on site.

If you are unsure whether your construction project needs a safety management plan the first step is to check with your local state or territory WorkSafe office. Each WorkSafe office can provide you with information on what is required in your state or territory. But remember, sometimes they can’t give specific advice to your business and can only tell you what the legislation says. Unfortunately the legislation can be quite nuanced and not as prescriptive as it could be.

In Victoria the WorkSafe office has a downloadable document that outlines the minimum requirements for a safety management plan. The document includes a section on who needs to prepare aone and when one is needed.

The bottom line – if you are managing a construction project you need to have a safety management plan in place.

What should be included in a safety management plan?

Whether you are calling it a safety management plan or a WHS management plan or even a construction safety plan in most states the plan must (as per legislation) contain:

  • The names, positions and health and safety responsibilities of all persons at the workplace whose positions or roles involve specific health and safety responsibilities in connection with the project
  • The arrangements in place, between any persons conducting a business or undertaking at the workplace where the construction project is being undertaken, for consultation, cooperation and the coordination of activities in relation to compliance with their duties
  • The arrangements in place for managing any work health and safety incidents that occur
  • Any site-specific health and safety rules, and the arrangements for ensuring that all persons at the workplace are informed of these rules
  • The arrangements for the collection and any assessment, monitoring and review of safe work method statements at the workplace
safety management plan

What do I do with my safety management plan?

Many builders place their safety documents on site and let their employees and sub-contractors read it as they see fit. You should also keep your safe work method statements with your WHS management plan. However at Safe-R Outcomes we highly recommend emailing your WHS management plan to each employee and/or sub-contractor prior them commencing work on your construction site as well as having a hard copy on site.

Each contractor should read it prior to starting work on your site to ensure they understand how you expect work to be done, and what rules and controls you have in place. If they have questions they should ask you or the site manager prior to commencing work.

How often do I have to review my safety management plan?

You should review your safety management plan prior to the beginning of each project. Any changes to the scope of the works during the project should be noted within the safety management plan as soon as possible. There is no need to create a new management plan, you can annotate in pen or pencil and initial it. Reviewing it will ensure it is up-to-date and relevant to each site.

How long do I have to keep a safety management plan?

If a notifiable incident occurs in connection with the construction project,  the person must keep the WHS management plan for at least two years after the incident occurs. If no notifiable incident occurs in connection with the construction project, the person should keep the WHS management plan for at least one year after the construction project is completed.

What if I don’t have a safety management plan?

If you don’t have a safety management plan and are found to be managing a construction project, you could face fines of many thousands of dollars. Your site could also be shut down until you have the right documents in place. Not having a sWHS management plan in place if an incident occurs could also lead to prosecution and even more fines. In regards to safety legislation, ignorance is not a defence, and your insurance could also refuse to pay if they deem you have broken the law.

whs management plan

WHS Management Plan Free Examples

There are many free WHS management plan examples available online that can be useful for Principal Contractors if they need help putting together a plan. When downloading a free example it is important to consider whether it has all the legal requirements as per your state legislation, and whether you will be doing the work as per the plan.
You can be fined if:

  • Your plan is not up to date
  • You do not have a plan
  • Your plan does not contain the relevant information
  • It has irrelevant information
  • You do not complete your work as per the plan

You can also have your construction site closed to all works until you have put a WHS management plan in place. This could mean your project is closed down for hours or days until the inspector gives you permission to start work again.

An up to date and complete WHS management plan is evidence that you are trying to manage the health and safety of everyone on your construction site. If something goes wrong, you will have written evidence that you had certain rules and expectations on your site, it is not enough to say “I told them”. You could save yourself thousands of dollars, and maybe even your business just by having a current site safety plan.

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