01 Oct 2015

How does your safety management system measure up?

by Joanne Stevenson, Shae McCartney

Safety management self-assessment tools must be used effectively and systematically to gain the most benefit.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has recently launched an organisational systems benchmarking tool with the aim of:

  • helping organisations assess whether they have an effective, systematic approach to managing the areas of work health and safety, worker health and wellbeing, and workers' compensation and return to work;
  • enabling an organisation to compare its performance anonymously with other businesses across similar industry sectors and sizes; and
  • providing guidance to help an organisation improve its management of safety, health and wellbeing and workers' compensation and return to work.

Worksafe Victoria also recently launched a similar assessment tool.

So what do you need to think about when using self-assessment tools to assess your organisation's safety management system?

Use of external self-assessment tools

It is essential that an organisation regularly assesses the effectiveness of its safety management system and identifies any issues and necessary improvements. Presumably most organisations already have in place mechanisms for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of their system. External self-assessment tools can be used in conjunction with existing mechanisms and may assist in benchmarking systems against other businesses, depending on the level of participation of other businesses.

However, it is imperative that these tools are used by those authorised persons who have a comprehensive knowledge of an organisation's safety management system to ensure the results are accurate. Persons undertaking the assessments are doing so as a representative of the organisation and should have the appropriate authority to do so.

It is also crucial that the results of the assessment are reported to the appropriate persons consistent with the organisation's reporting procedures (which may include to the executive team) so that any issues identified can be appropriately managed.

While the reports are not published by the regulator, as is the case with WHSQ, they may still need to be disclosed, for example, to a regulator as part of a workplace investigation or potential prosecution for breach of health and safety obligations, which is why again it is important that such reports accurately reflect the status of an organisation's safety management system.

Tips for using self-assessment tools

In summary, to ensure that an organisation gets the most benefit out of using external self-assessment tools, organisations need to:

  • educate employees about self-assessment tools;
  • ensure authorised persons who have adequate knowledge of the organisation's safety management system undertake the assessment so the results are accurate;
  • ensure the tools are used consistently with existing monitoring and assessment tools;
  • report the results of the assessment;
  • manage any identified issues;
  • appreciate that such reports, while not public, may need to be provided to a regulator in other circumstances; and
  • engage independent third party auditors where necessary.

We encourage the use of self-assessment tools generally to ensure the effectiveness of an organisation's safety management system, but such tools must be used effectively and systematically to gain the most benefit.


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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.