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What is the difference between a WHS Management System and a WHS Management Plan?

What is the difference between a WHS Management System and a WHS Management Plan?

Think of a modern war-zone; perhaps Iraq? Somewhere, far from the combat areas, an overall strategy (or SYSTEM) is designed by Generals. Elsewhere, in a dusty theatre of desert warfare, soldiers are dodging bullets and taking action in response to orders from sergeants, lieutenants and captains. These front-line soldiers execute specific PLANS for their specific situation.  Soldiers implement the general's SYSTEMS by following the commands (or PLANS) of their immediate officers.

WHS Management Systems and Plans have a similar relationship. Let's explore this some more.

At least three times a week, I am asked to explain the difference between Work Health and Safety Management Systems (WHSMS) and Work Health and Safety Management Plans (WHSMP). In this article, we'll consider that question and more. 

We'll consider the goal they share, of establishing and supporting safe operating procedures. We'll also consider the way they address the vulnerabilities of the other, as well as the specific elements present in each. Along the way, we'll also provide links to relevant products.

If you already know what you’re after, you can go straight to our WHS Management Systems or our WHS Management Plans. If would prefer to speak directly with a team member, phone 1800 304 336, or you can complete the Contact Request Form within this website.

WHS Systems = Safe Operating Procedures From Altitude

A WHS management SYSTEM is a corporate-level collection of documents. These documents establish the goals and structure of an enterprise's overall safe operating procedures. The System operates enterprise-wide. It shapes and informs the Management Plans that flow from it - but a system is not a plan.

To return to our battlefield analogy, systems are a drone-view of the battle taking place below. A WHS Management System, like a drone soaring high above, provides big-picture information and is guided by broader principles and vision. 

Systems are not site-specific, but they are typically industry-specific. 

WHS Plans = Systems Applied to Specific Places

A WHS Management PLAN is designed to implement the system at a local and site level. 

The WHS Management SYSTEM provides a drone altitude, big-picture strategy. The WHSM Plan guides and resources that system's implementation.

Soldiers clearing a particular street or taking a specific hill, need and see things differently from the generals watching from a drone-view, 500 metres above. Soldiers are up-close and personal with the hazards. They rely on training and resources to do their job well. They act in response to their site and situation specifics. Their on-site commanders know what their generals expect; they create situation-specific plans with this in mind.

Likewise, at a construction site or workplace, it is the tradesmen and their overseers that operate and implement a big-picture WHS battle plan.

Systems are big-picture. Plans are site-specific. These are further explained below and can be viewed here.

Safe Operating Procedures Usually Need One System Supported by Multiple Plans

WHS Management Systems (WHSMS) and Plans (WHSMP) work together. Their shared goal is to establish, support and enforce safe operating procedures.  

A WHS System may be adequate for a small operation, but for a large business or project, systems alone are not enough. You need one or more plans.

Typically, business principals implement both a System and Plan(s) when:

  1. A due diligence decision is made to implement site-specific plans in every location.
  2. The project legally requires a WHS Management Plan (the legislative limit is set at $250,000). 
  3. A tender or contract specifically requests it. 

Whatever the reason, both WHS Systems and WHS Plans are integral to your achieving cost-effective and safe operating procedures. 

How To Implement Your WHS System

To be effective, your WHS System needs to be a comprehensive organism of interacting processes, working together in pursuit of safety. 

The WHS Management System contains your policies and procedures. Your WHS Management Plan then provides checklists, registers and forms needed to make the System usable and operable. 

Effective implementation also requires:

  1. Policies that comply with AS/NZS 4801:2001 standards.
  2. Procedures that flow from and enact these policies.
  3. Checklists, registers and forms to empower and record the procedures.
  4. A top-down AND bottom-up dynamic, so workers are encouraged and able to suggest improvements. 
  5. Documents that are easy to understand. They need technical precision, but they also need to be simple enough that all workers can read and understand them.
  6. All documents and resources need to be read, understood and signed by all participating workers.
  7. All checklists, registers and forms must be retained to establish a record of compliance (i.e. your evidence of due diligence).
  8. The documents should also be used to support your continuous improvement processes.

This process begins with accessing document templates that support every requirement just listed. You can access our system documents here. Similarly, our plans make achieving your goals manageable and affordable. These Plans are available here.

Investing in a WHS Management System 

We explained above that your WHS Management System needs to comply with the regulatory Standard AS 4801:2001. This document is also sometimes cited with the New Zealand modifier "AS/NZS" included.

In case this is new to you, the name includes the following elements: 

     AS/NZS 4801:2001 = (Country(ies) where it applies) (Ref. No.) : (Year of Release). 

Our systems also comply with:

  1. The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011, and 
  2. WHS Regulations 2017.

All our system templates are easy-to-complete and customisable Microsoft Word templates. Designed for non-experts, they also include free phone support

We have WHS Management Systems for an extensive range of industries, including:

WHSMS (System) Certification? 

"Are your systems certified?"

It's a question I often get. Unfortunately, the answer is, "No. But, for a good reason. Certified Systems can NOT be purchased!"

Systems can only be certified when being appropriately implemented by you, in your location(s). 

That said, if you fill in our templates, implement them, then bring in an authorised certifier, you should secure certification easily. We've made the process as easy as we can. 

As I explained in Win Your Building and Construction Tender, the Management System is like an Armani suit. Wear it well and you'll probably look awesome. A certifier assesses whether or not you're 'wearing' your WHS Management System correctly.  

By the way, we're also happy to give you some 'grooming tips'.

If you implement the systems correctly, certification should follow.

Your WHS Management Plan

There is also an AS/NZS standard for Management Plans also - but you'll find it WITHIN the AS/NZS 4801:2001 document. There are site-specific applications within the Standard. 

We show you how to comply with those applications and provisions!

As already explained, the WHSMP (Plan) is site or project-specific. Required for projects of $250K and above (and sometimes for lower value ones), it is an obligation placed on the principal contractor - rather than the subbies. Sub-contractors work under and subject to the principal contractor.

Subcontractors  also provide Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS’s) to the Principal Contractor that are appropriate to the work they are performing You can access our SWMS templates here.

You'll find our WHSMP (Plans) listed under six labels. These include:

  1. HSE Management Plans (which includes the WHS and ENV Plans)
  2. Project Management Plan (which includes the WHS, EMP and QMP Plans)
  3. Environmental Management Plans (EMP)
  4. Quality Management Plan (QMP)
  5. Work Health and Safety (WHS)
  6. Asbestos Management Plans (AMP)

We’ve also provided a free eBook for you called, Designing a Quality Safety Management Plan. It’s a great resource to support your creation and implementation of premium standard WHSMP principles.

Your Decision

We've shown that your WHS management SYSTEM is a collection of documents operating enterprise-wide in the interests of safe operating procedures. These are corporate-level documents, whereas the WHS Management PLAN, is a resource designed to implement the system at a site level. 

Safe operating procedures are their shared and complementary goal. You may not need both, but they certainly work best when they are working together. Soldiers know that victory almost always requires ground troops, but they also know that a capable general saves many, many lives. Both must work together. 

Systems and Plans from Occupational Safety Solution are cost-effective, fully compliant, fully supported and easy to use. The feedback we receive is consistently positive. We have good reason to be confident - and so do you! Your investment is one that:

  • Saves time, 
  • Saves lives, 
  • Wins tenders, 
  • Satisfies regulators, 
  • Improves margins, and 
  • Spares you from many nightmares of regret!  

You can view our Systems here and our Plans here. Alternatively, you can use the individual product links provided above. You can request a callback here, or if you’d like to speak directly, call 1800 304 336. Your questions matter, so you won’t be talking to a cue-card reading off-shore telephonist. 

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