Often in the workplace I see confusion between what is a WHS Management System and a Safety Management Plan. This confusion is not only in the terminology used but also in their application.

So firstly what is a WHS Management Systems (WHSMS)?

WHSMS can be in a variety of formats depending on the contextual issues it must address. However the framework for a WHSMS typically takes that of the diagram below.





At a high level in the structure is the policy or policies. As a minimum an organisation should have a Health and Safety policy that is signed by senior management. This demonstrates their commitment to WHS and their expectations of the workforce. Such a policy should reflect the special needs of the organisation and should be regularly reviewed and updated.

Organisations may adopt other policies that similarly detail management expectations of key issues such as a Fitness for Work Policy or a Smoking Policy.

Procedures provide instruction in relation to key aspects of the WHSMS. An organisation’s WHSMS will contain a variety of procedures depending on the type of work they undertake and what environments they work in. Typical procedures a WHSMS might contain include risk management, incident investigation, consultation and communication etc.

Forms support the application of procedures. They allow for the implementation of a procedure to address the specifics of the situation. For example an organisation may have a Consultation and Communication Procedure. Supporting this may be a Pre-shift Briefing Form, WHS Committee Meeting Form, Toolbox Meeting Form etc. A Risk Management Procedure may be supported by a Hazard Report Form, Risk Assessment Form, Workplace Inspection Form etc.

So what about Plans then?

WHS plans address the specifics of a work environment. They take the relevant aspects of the WHSMS for application in that workplace. Plans also include details of resourcing requirements and the responsibility of individuals in the implementation of the plan.

In Western Australia under OSH Regulation 3.142, Safety Management Plans are legislated for construction sites where 5 or more persons are likely to be working at the same time.

So for example, ABC Construction has a WHSMS that contains policies, procedures and forms to enable its workers in all of their workplaces to manage safety. When ABC Construction begins work for a specific project site they will develop a plan that includes the relevant policies, procedures and forms from their WHSMS plus detail of what and who is required to assist in the execution of the plan.

WHSMS vs Plan