How to develop and maintain an AS/NZS 4801 Health &
Safety Management System faster, better, and smarter
With increasingly strict legislation and heightened community awareness, organisations are more than ever looking
to achieve and demonstrate sound health & safety performance and risk management. The accepted way of doing
that is to develop and maintain a management system based on a recognised standard, and subject it to
verification – such as by internal audit and perhaps to an independent certification audit.
What is a health & safety management system?
A Health & Safety Management System may be considered as a formal documented system that includes the
1. A safety policy
2. A programme for training and ensuring competency
3. A framework for involving employees in the management of health & safety
4. The collection, analysis and reporting of safety performance data
5. The identification of hazards in the workplace
6. The assessment of the risk they pose to people
7. The elimination or control of those risks
8. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the control measures
9. Arrangements for emergency preparations and response
10. Systems for monitoring the effectiveness of health & safety arrangements
11. Systems for monitoring the health of workers
12. Systems for the reporting and investigation of accidents / incident
13. Controls over documents and records
14. A programme of internal audits and management review to ensure that the system continues to meet
objectives and requirements
A Health & Safety Management System should address the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements. Many
jurisdictions specify the actual method of consultation, training, incident reporting, emergency responses, health
surveillance / monitoring, and risk management.
What is the AS/NZS 4801 standard
It is a standard or specification jointly published by Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand for an
occupational (or work) health and safety management system. It is naturally most widely used within those
countries. The standard may be used by any organisation to establish and maintain a system to control risks to
personnel and others associated with its activities. Its requirements are stated in a series of clauses that refer to
various aspects of an management system, including: Hazard identification, risk assessment, planning controls,
training and awareness, consultation and communication, operational control, emergency preparation and
response, incident investigation, corrective and preventive action, control of documents, control of records, internal
audits, and management review.
Developing your Health & Safety management system
Developing your system can be quite a major project. Like any such project, it may at first appear to be daunting
and too complex to get a firm grip on. However, it can be more easily managed by being divided into bite-sized
pieces. The following is an example of how that can be done. Initially the project is divided into 5 stages:
Organisations have traditionally developed control measures to meet applicable legal, regulatory and contractual
requirements. There is a trend towards greater 'systemisation' and basing those systems on standards such as
OHSAS 18001. Of course, you still need to meet those legal, regulatory and contractual requirements. The
intention of a standards-based system is to provide a solid base on which your organisation can better comply with
them - for now and into the future.
There are a number of development options available to you, and each has its own particular advantages. The
development option that you choose will affect your method of system development. Consultants and other
sources of external help will have their own standard methodologies. The options include:
• Various documented procedures
• Health & safety plans
• Risk assessments / work method statements
• and other documents
used to. However, remember that the documentation should be appropriate to the nature of your organisations’
activities and the risks associated with its operations.
People, their commitment, and the training / resources / methods they are provided with are vitally important.
Implementation may include tasks such as risk assessments being performed, and physical risk control measures
such as barriers, labeling, and signage, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
|Fig.1 Floor Stands warn
people of a slippery floor
|Fig.1 Floor Stands warn
people of a slippery floor
|Fig.1 Floor Stands warn
people of a slippery floor
To be of maximum true value, your system needs the broad support of people within your organisation. This is
often best achieved with a softly, softly approach - consultation, communication, then participation in introducing
changes. The following guidance may be useful:
In larger organisations, a team of co-ordinators or local representatives can assist them.
Consult and communicate with employees
Apart from being a requirement of the standard, this can help to allay any fears and suspicions that people may
have about the reasons for process and/or organisational change.
Participation should be encouraged
All employees have a role to play. Workload can be shared and a range of ideas can come from people with
Following the principle of Dr. Demings’ PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle, having planned our system and put it into
practice, we need to check or verify that it is working effectively.
All control systems need feedback mechanisms to help their controllers keep the system on track. Management
systems are no exception, and internal audits are their key feedback mechanism. To illustrate the importance of
internal audits, they are a mandatory requirement of the OHSAS 18001 standard. They audits offer a very
beneficial and low-cost method to help your organisation maintain compliance, and achieve its objectives. There are also other aspects of verification, including measurement and monitoring, employee surveys, and periodic review by top management.
after quite a brief period of implementation. It is quite likely that a little bit of fine-tuning to your system will be
necessary. After that, your audit schedule may be on a risk basis - with those processes that are most important or
that have had problems in the past being audited more regularly than others. You may also choose to have an
external audit of your system (against a standard such as OHSAS 18001) by a Certification body or Registrar.
Results of audits and other verification techniques should be fed back to the management Review process, for top
management to consider progress, and plan any remedial action or perhaps set new objectives.
A faster, better, and smarter management system
There are many different ways to develop and maintain a management system based on OHSAS 18001. The trick
is to do it in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner. Organisations have many competing calls on their resources
– and personnel in particular. So the system needs to be low-impact in terms of the time needed to develop and
maintain it. Many a well-intentioned system has fallen by the wayside because its design meant it was too
burdensome to keep going. So, as competing demands for resources took precedence, the system gradually fell
into disuse. The days of administrators updating multiple hard-copy manuals are now - or should be - long gone.
The next generation of systems used documents on server drives or an intranet, and offered some improvement.
However, they too have limitations. There is still a considerable gap between what such systems deliver and what
is expected or needed. A large proportion of information on intranets is poorly indexed or not indexed at all –
leading to what is known as the ‘Invisible Intranet’. If it can’t be found it can’t be used, and the time taken to
create the information is wasted. Research by international marketing company IDC indicates that 35-50% of
available information is not indexed. Even when it is, many of the documents, schedules and records that form part
of a management system are usually kept in separate folder locations – wasting time and sometimes causing
difficulty in accessing them. Manual updating of indexes in Excel workbooks and similar means extra work, doublehandling,
and introduces the possibility of discrepancies.
What is needed to overcome these issues is purpose-designed software that makes the system quicker to develop,
easier to use and access data, with automatic indexing and email notifications / reminders. In essence, something
that is faster, better and smarter.
Qudos 3 is a modern, integrated, software solution that will help with many of the tasks needed for the operation
of your management system:
|• Plan Health & Safety Objectives and Targets and how they will
• Document policies, procedures, forms, letters etc. with our huge
library of samples and templates
• Make documents easily accessible over your intranet or internet – with
powerful search facilities to find the right document quickly and
• Plan and record document reviews and revisions
• Schedule and record internal audits and other checks
• Plan and record minutes of management review, committee
and other meetings, and distribute them
• Maintain records of Health & Safety training – with convenient
tools to query refresher training needs
• Assess Health & Safety performance with automated pie and bar
charts that have millions of drill-down display and reporting options
• Consider and evaluate risks that might affect your people
• Record accidents, incidents, issues, hazards and suggestions
• Plan preventive / corrective / improvement action and then
assign, record and track those actions
• Remind people about tasks that are due / overdue with automated
• Escalate overdue actions
The software also includes Safety Manager - a comprehensive toolkit for developing an OHS management
system based on the requirements of both AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001. The Safety Manager component
alone provides a great kick-start to developing or updating your management system with:
- An introduction to the subject of health & safety management systems
- A commentary on the requirements of the standards
- Case studies that illustrate possible methods to comply with those requirements
- Tools to help you plan the development of your own system - based on the standard
- A large quantity of sample documents such as policies, procedures, forms and letters. Just use your familiar word processor to customise those selected for your organisation
- MS PowerPoint presentations for employee training
With its modular design, high level of user-configuration, robust SQL database and web technology, Qudos 3 offers
the power of integration of:
• Your key activities for addressing the standard
• Similar activities for other standards and compliance issues (ISO 9001 Quality / ISO 14001 Environment
• Activities relating to one or many sites
The tools are here right now to help you make an immediate start on developing faster, better, smarter
management system. Qudos 3 is available as Self-hosted server-based software, or cloud hosted with fully licenced
or leased options.
Gap analysis, coaching, training and system development / maintenance services are also available from Qudos
and its partners. To find out more, contact:
Qudos Management Pty. Ltd.
Quality | Health & Safety | Environmental management
36/71 Eagle Street, Brisbane, QLD 4000
Tel: +61 (07) 3121 3200