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Workplace health and safety management system

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

A workplace health and safety management system is a set of policies, procedures and plans that systematically manages health and safety at work and can help to minimise the risk of injury and illness from workplace operations.

A systems-based approach

As an employer, you can choose to establish a health and safety management system as a way to help meet your duties and responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Well-designed policies and procedures help organisations comply with work health and safety legislation and regulations.

However, a workplace health and safety management system is much more than simply having safety-related forms and policies in place and documented procedures. Rather, it is about achieving the measures and contents of the safety documentation in an ongoing and managed way.

A systems-based approach is far more effective in protecting people from harm and meeting safety goals than a system which relies on documentation alone. This is because a workplace health and safety management system:

  • is evolving and continuously improving
  • uses feedback to manage and improve safety related outcomes
  • builds on existing health and safety processes
  • integrates with other management systems
  • provides for more informed decision making
  • strengthens corporate culture and demonstrates due diligence.

The Australian standard

The Australian standard, AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 (Occupational health and safety management systems - Requirements with guidance for use):

  • specifies the conditions for a workplace health and safety management system
  • gives guidance on its use.

The standard aims to enable organisations to provide safe and healthy workplaces by preventing work-related injury and illness, and proactively improve its work health and safety performance.

Like some other Australian standards dealing with management systems, AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 is closely aligned with the relevant international standards, ISO 9000 series, dealing with similar issues.

How to develop a health and safety system

Every organisation will find that it has some elements of a workplace health and safety management system in place.

What is less common is the linking of these elements into a coordinated overall system to improve work health and safety performance.

  1. Start by comparing the intent behind each element in the Australian standard AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 with the management practices and procedures your organisation currently uses
  2. Think about what a mature work health and safety management system looks like and consider your organisation—it should be risk focused, fit for purpose, improved through learning and review, and be sensitive to the way people behave.

Complete the Work Health and Safety Management Plan template (PDF, 508.6 KB) to identify the required elements in your workplace. The purpose of the plan is to establish and maintain an effective health and safety management system.

Evidence you may consider is:

Commitment and accountabilities

  • Senior management is visibly involved and committed.
  • Organisational structures and accountabilities for health and safety are in place.
  • There are clearly assigned work health and safety responsibilities at various management levels.
  • Robust worker consultative arrangements are an essential element.
  • Consultation occurs with affected workers on work health and safety matters.


Design of work

  • Good work design is put into practice.
  • A program of workplace inspections is in place.
  • Incidents are investigated and reported.
  • Identification and monitoring of hazards and emerging risk are in place.
  • First aid arrangements and health monitoring appropriate to the health risks at the workplace.

Hazard and risk management

Health and safety committees

  • Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) a health and safety committee brings together workers and management to develop and review health and safety policies and procedures for the workplace.
  • When a health and safety representative, or five or more workers, at a workplace request a health and safety committee be created, the 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU), who is usually the employer, must create one within two months of the request.
  • Functions of a health and safety committee are:
    • facilitate cooperation between the PCBU and workers in instigating, developing and carrying out measures designed to ensure the workers’ health and safety at work
    • assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety
    • comply with functions prescribed by regulations
    • carry out any other functions agreed between the PCBU and the health and safety committee.

For more information, see:

Monitoring and evaluation

  • Work Health and Safety Barriers and Remedies checklist (PDF, 169.5 KB) – includes likely barriers affecting safe and healthy work and some suggested remedies.
  • National Audit tool (DOCX, 138.0 KB) – provides a review of the elements that are considered during a work health and safety management system audit.
  • Proof that health and safety policies and procedures are documented, implemented and maintained.
  • A policy which focuses on workplace health and safety is central to all operations and suits the nature and scale of your organisation’s risks.
  • Procedures are in place which set out the steps workers should follow to perform specific work activities safely and meet organisational policies and legislation.
  • Emergency management and response procedures are in place.
  • Policies and procedures are available to all staff, such as on staff noticeboards and intranet site.

Policies and procedures

A policy is a course or principle of action. Common features of good policy are it:

  • states matters of principle
  • has a focus on action, stating what is to be done and by who
  • is an authoritative statement, made by a person or body with the power to do so.

A procedure sets out the steps to be followed for work activities. You must consult with affected workers when developing procedures for resolving work health and safety issues, consulting with workers on work health and safety, monitoring worker health and workplace conditions, and providing information and training.

  • AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems – requirements with guidance for use. Australian Standards may be purchased through selected bookstores and online.
  • Writing a Health and Safety Policy – guidelines to writing a work health and safety policy, prepared by Health and Safety Executive UK though laws mentioned do not relate to Australia.


We provide face-to-face training courses and digital learning. For more information, see Training and learning.

Page last reviewed: 12 April 2022

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Date printed 19 May 2024