What are my options for a safety management system?
The current Work Health and Safety Regulations (NSW, 2017) do not provide specifics around exactly what type of systems you should have in place as a small business owner.
The area of the regs that covers this states that you must (summarised):
Provide information to workers about the work they are to do and its associated risks and controls.
Provide it in a way that is easy to understand.
You must also keep records of when and where you shared this information.
As there are serious penalties for not doing this (up to $30k for a business), your best bet is to comply with the regs.
There are many ways you can do this, so I thought it might be good to summarise the most common approaches, so if you do not currently have a system in place, you can choose the one that most suits your situation.
Note that I am not going to cover the option of ‘just do nothing’ as we do not see this as a suitable option for a professional business.
Online Safety Management System
This is a system such as Worx Inductions. From our point of view (which may be biased), this is the best and easiest option for most small businesses.
This system covers providing the actual inductions to staff, including quizzes where required to test understanding. Automatic record keeping of inductions, results and expiries are kept. These inductions are provided online (computer, phone, tablet) by video, so can be taken any time and do not need safety personnel to deliver them.
These systems also have management of safety documentation, such as insurance policies and licenses. Copies of these documents are stored securely in the subcontractors file and there are automatic alerts to both the subcontractor and the company admin for upcoming expiries or changes.
Whilst these are the most important parts, there are also many other options available in different systems. The Worx Inductions system for example has the functionality to send out safety alerts to all your employees and contractors (or specific groups of them). It can also provide reports on things like who has completed a specific induction, or who has not yet signed up etc.
In person induction delivery
This was the most common option for inductions prior to the improvements in online video presentations. It is the situation where a safety person delivers the induction either to one person or to a room full of people. Mostly this was by walking through a powerpoint presentation.
One of the advantages of this style of presentation is that people can ask questions as they go to get better understanding of specific items.
The disadvantage is that these inductions often need to be scheduled as you need the safety person to deliver it, so if you cant make a certain date, you may have to wait until the next available time, meaning your site work may be delayed.
Sometimes these in person inductions have a paper quiz, which also serves as a record of the induction. This paper then needs to be stored (hopefully scanned and saved online somewhere, but certainly a lot of them end up in a box in the corner of the site office).
Searching who has completed an induction, or when refreshers are due can be easy or very hard, depending on how well you manage the paperwork created.
I have been on jobs before where the induction consisted of a printed page of info that I was told to read and then sign the bottom.
This technically meets the requirements of the regs, and may be suitable for certain (simple) job sites.
I personally do not think it is a good option these days as it is too easy to just sign it and not read anything, which leads to people being put at risk.
You still have to manage the storage of paperwork similar to the in person induction.
In house Safety Management System
Another option is to develop your own in house safety management system. I have seen many of these over the years, ranging from great looking databases, to 100 column wide excel spreadsheets!
Again, these can be great, or they can be terrible, depending on who built them, and who needs to access them.
The main downside is that all the data still needs to be entered manually, and needs consistent checking to ensure everything is up to date. This means they can be cheaper to set up initially, but cost much more to manage over time.
There can also be issues if the person that created it has to move on for any reason, and a new person has to take over.
As a side note, we have seen savings of 16 hours per month with a company moving from a spreadsheet to the Worx Inductions system.
These are the most common options that I have come across over the past 20 years or so working on sites across Australia. I am sure there may be more that I have not seen.
I find the best approach if you are looking for a way to meet the regulations is to ask a couple of questions:
How big is our company and / or specific project?
Do I want a manual or automatic system?
What staff do we have available to manage our system?
The answers to these questions will often guide you to the right system.
As much as I think the Worx System is great, I also know that it is not the right system for every company. There may be other online options that suit your company better, or, generally for very small operations, maybe a manual system is still suitable.
The main point is that you need something - having nothing just leaves your employees and your company exposed - to injury or penalties.
If you need help with any of the questions I proposed above, please contact us.