WHS management plan for a construction site

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Team Kiri Align
4th April 2021

The safety of workers, contractors and yourself should be your utmost concern. A good way to achieve that is, by creating and implementing a WHS management plan for your construction site.

The aim of this guide is to provide a framework for industry professionals to ensure Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) standards are met at construction sites. This guide will facilitate compliance for the management of WHS, arising from the WHS Act and Regulations 2012. By complying with any Australian Standard, Code of Practice or Guideline that is incorporated in this guide, contractors can then be confident that they are meeting their legislative requirements when it comes to WHS for their construction site.

However before you can create an effective WHS plan, it is most important to understand what comprises WHS and the areas that it covers.

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Introduction to WHS management plan for construction sites

A Workplace Health and Safety management plan, also known as WHS management plan, is a practical tool for businesses that operate on a site. It is a written document that ensures that safe working conditions are being met by all workers and contractors. WHS management plans essentially consist of strategies or practices that guide in work placements, WHS policies and procedures in order to promote health and safety effectively at the construction site.

Who needs a WHS Management Plan?

Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2012, a WHS Management Plan is mandatory for workplaces in Australia and for construction sites (pertinent to the principal contractor for the project).  A WHS Management Plan is one of the most effective risk management tools that you will use as a business owner. And even if you are not a principal contractor, having a plan means you can protect your business or more importantly your staff and customers from any potential harm. Additionally, you can receive help quickly if required.

In summary: Every construction business owner should ensure they have a WHS management in place.

Who is responsible for the WHS management plan for construction sites?

The principal contractor is responsible for preparing the WHS management plan which must be in writing and completed before the start of a project. It is his/her duty to communicate the plan or appropriate part of the plan to workers, contractors and subcontractors. The principal contractor, under the WHS Act (2011) and Regulations (2012) is also required to ensure that the measures set out in its safety management plan for construction sites are implemented and complied with by each subcontractor, and other person who has a duty under the Act.

Why is having a WHS management plan necessary?

WHS management planning is a vital part of developing new construction sites and maintaining the ongoing safety of subcontractors, employees and visitors. It aims to reduce injuries and fatalities through tried and tested procedures. Preparing site plans, training the workers on the hazards they will face and ensuring a safer outcome, are all important parts in delivering a satisfactory environment for the employee, customer or visitor.

The documentation prepared by the compliance officer is very useful in understanding the risks that are involved during different stages of the construction process. This will lead to better methods of health and safety risk prevention, control and mitigation.

 Benefits of WHS management plan for construction sites:

The essentials for an effective WHS management plan for a construction site

It is difficult to list all the essentials of a WHS management plan for construction sites. We could tell you what a good management plan should look like, but that might not apply in your project or site. As WHS consultants, we often find that the best WHS management plans are unique to each construction site. However, there are key elements a construction site’s WHS management plan must have to be effective. 

The following elements have been identified as necessary for WHS management in Australian workplaces.

WHS Management Plan for Construction site must have:

Preparing a WHS management plan – The 4 key areas

Creating a WHS management plan for a construction site involves staying in step with regulations. The proposed Australian Standard and WHS Management Code of Practice is a pretty good place to start. In Australia, the majority of construction companies follow a Management Plan for Work Health and Safety (WHS) guidelines. This is a legal requirement for every construction company operating in the country. 

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to WHS management plans for constructions sites. The principal contractor can adapt a generic WHS management plan to several construction projects that are similar.

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll divide the plan into 4 parts. Following this template can help you develop a WHS Management Plan. Once you familiarise yourself with this process, you will be better prepared to create your own plan.

  1. Identify Work Health and Safety Arrangements

E.g. “to establish and maintain an effective health and safety management system for XYZ construction projects.”

Everyone concerned with the project should be identified and their role defined. For example:

  1. Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) - has the primary duty of care to ensure
  2. Officer – one whose duty it is to ensure the PCBU meets health and safety obligations under the WHS Act
  3. Worker – an employee
  4. Health and Safety Representative (HSR) - an elected worker that will represent other employees in health and safety matters
  5. Other persons – such as site visitors
  6. Others include Project Manager, Contractor, First aid officer etc.

Lay out plans to encourage open communication between workers and managers. Plans may include regular meetings, Q&A sessions, setting up Health and Safety committees, working with HSRs, co-opting workers input into plans.

Outline your commitment to develop the competencies of workers through appropriate WHS training based on training needs assessment.

Make arrangements to identify and control hazards in order to protect workers, contractors and visitors from risks to their health, safety and welfare.

Provisions, obligations, and privileges of visitors should be clearly defined.

State arrangements on how to resolve WHS concerns 

2. Spell out General WHS Information

Develop an emergency evacuation plan, and display it together with a list of emergency contacts in the Office/reception, common areas, toilets, workshops. This should be regularly reviewed.

Communicate the process of reporting an incidence. This could via forms or through an Incident Reporting Software.

According to the WHS Act and Regulations, serious incidents must be reported to Comcare as soon as possible. In your plan, clearly outline the process for this. The process could be manual or automated through an Incident Reporting Software.

Outline your first aid procedures, as required by First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice. Include identification of officers, training plans, and responsibilities.

Make arrangements for hazard identification, creating a risk matrix, assign a risk priority score, and manage the control of hazards.

Clearly outline steps on how to collect, assess, monitor, and review SWMS. 

Make arrangements to assess any goods and services for associated health and safety hazards before purchase.

Designate who is responsible for record keeping including the type of documents and the storage method.

Make arrangements to display the following documents: Emergency contacts list, Emergency Evacuation Plan, Return to Work Policy, Work Health and Safety Policy, Accident/Incident Notification details, Compensation and Return to Work information.

3. Outline specific WHS Requirements

State the arrangement you have for working with, handling, or managing hazardous materials in the construction site. Identify principal officers and processes.

State your commitment not to tolerate improper behaviours such as bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. Plus a process of dealing with such acts.

Arrangements for inspecting and testing electrical equipment in accordance with Australian Standard 3760:2010 should be clearly defined in your plan.

Create a register of all confined spaces at the site and the modalities for access control, entry permits, and process to determine qualification and training required to work in such places.

State the muster point in case of emergencies.

Arrangements for dealing with fall from height, handling of equipment and machinery, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), policy towards Drug, Alcohol, Smoking, Mobile phone use should be clearly stated.

4. Complete Forms and Checklists

Provide the following forms/checklist:

Following the creation of a construction site’s WHS Management plan - What next?

  1. Communicate the WHS management plan to relevant stakeholders

Per the WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY REGULATION 2017 - REG 310 (The WHS management plan--duty to inform), “The principal contractor for a construction project must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable that each person who is to carry out construction work in connection with the project is, before commencing work, made aware of (a) the content of the WHS management plan for the workplace, and (b) the person's right to inspect the WHS management plan under clause 313.”

You don't want to leave out any important parts of your WHS management plan (and end up with undesirable outcomes) or confuse important aspects of it (which could undermine its effectiveness). It is therefore important to establish communication goals, a communications tool, including how often it needs to be updated and have a conversation with everyone involved about the details of the WHS management plan or areas of the plan applicable to each stakeholder. This is crucial to ensure that all members of the organisation have access to up-to-date and accurate information.

  1. Review and revision of the WHS management plan

As per the Regulatory requirements, a principal contractor is required to review and revise its WHS Management Plan. Regulation 311: “The principal contractor must review and, as necessary, revise the WHS management plan to ensure it remains up-to-date and relevant for the construction project.”

This is to ensure that the Plan is in compliance with the legislative requirement and address all hazards identified and to ensure they are mitigated sufficiently. It would also help determine whether changes are needed, and if so, what those changes should be in order to ensure that workers' health, safety and wellbeing are protected.

  1. Storing the WHS management plan

You would like to be certain your employees are working within safe, measurable and manageable conditions. The WHS management plan as well as revisions should be safely collected, tagged, stored and made readily available to persons responsible for the construction work and inspections until the entire construction work is completed or after 2 years following the reporting of a “notifiable incident.”. Companies may keep everything in paper, or save everything digitally in various accessible formats. 

Create an accurate WHS Management Plan for your construction site easily

There are over one hundred elements that are required to be part of a WHS management plan in building and construction. Most businesses will only ever manage to include about 20% of all the elements, within their WHS management. This is not enough, and it gives employers a false sense of security when trying to run a safe workplace. 

Getting fined for not having an appropriate WHS management plan can be a big blow to your business. Not to mention the costs of replacing workers who are out for months after an accident at work. What’s worse is that this cost lives and can ruin your reputation. Unfortunately, traditional methods of WHS management plan development can be very expensive, tedious, and wrought with errors - companies are often worried about how they will keep costs down as well as create a plan that covers all elements of their business.

Kiri Align will help you identify hazards at your construction site, and assist with developing a workplace health and safety management plan for your site at a fraction of the cost, minus the stress. Here you have a WHS management system specifically created for the construction industry, to ensure everyone follows the rules and has a safe place to work, every day. 

It also provides legal information on what aspects you must address in your WHS management plan, as well as other general requirements for employers. The system prompts all the details you would want to know about safety measures, accident reporting requirements, and other regulations. 

Sign up here to trial the creation of a WHS management plan for your construction site for free!

Published by: Kiri Align