Workplace Health and Safety Management

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 places a number of duties on employers including the duty to manage occupational health and safety. Safety Management Systems (SMS) provide a framework to help do that effectively. Safety Management Systems can be tailored to suit the needs of the undertaking.

The Workplace Health and Safety Management Guidance aims to give practical advice and recommendations on developing an occupational safety, health and welfare management system for larger workplaces with an already well defined management structure.

There are various models for managing health and safety such as the Plan, Do Check, Act model as advocated in OHSAS 18001:2007 and HSG 65:2013.  The key elements of the Plan, Do, Check, Act model are listed below.


  • Develop an OSH 'Legal Register', which identifies all the statutory requirements relevant to your specific undertaking and activities.
  • Based upon this register, identify the occupational hazards and assess the risks presented to employees by those hazards.
  • Evaluate current compliance levels and put in place a programme which:
    • Outlines objectives and plans to deal with current non-compliance or under-performance
    • Outlines objectives and plans to maintain current compliance levels
  • Say what you want to achieve, who will be responsible for what, how you will achieve your aims, and how you will measure your success. You may need to write down this policy and your plan to deliver it.
  • Decide how you will measure performance. Think about ways to do this that go beyond looking at accident figures; look for leading indicators as well as lagging indicators. These are also called active and reactive indicators.
  • Remember to plan for changes and identify any specific legal requirements that apply to you and impact on your existing legal register.


  • Identify your risk profile: Assess the risks, identify what could cause harm in the workplace, who it could harm and how, and what you will do to manage the risk.
  • Decide what the priorities are and identify the biggest risks.
  • Organise your activities to deliver your plan.
  • In particular, aim to:
    • Involve workers and communicate, so that everyone is clear on what is needed and can discuss issues – develop positive attitudes and behaviours.
    • Provide adequate resources, including competent advice where needed.
  • Implement your plan: Decide on the preventive and protective measures needed and put them in place.
  • Provide the right tools and equipment to do the job and keep them maintained.
  • Train and instruct, to ensure everyone is competent to carry out their work.
  • Supervise to make sure that arrangements are followed.
  • Consider requirements around out-sourcing, procurement and use of contractors.
  • Consider fire and other emergencies. Co-operate with anyone who shares your workplace and co-ordinate plans with them.
  • Ensure documented information determined necessary, is created, revised and appropriately controlled.


  • Measure your performance. Make sure that your plan has been implemented – ‘paperwork’ on its own is not a good performance measure.
  • Assess how well the risks are being controlled and if you are achieving your aims. In some circumstances formal audits (internal & external) may be useful.
  • Investigate the causes of accidents, incidents or near misses.


  • Review your performance.  Learn from accidents and incidents, ill-health data, errors and relevant experience, including from other organisations.
  • Revisit plans, policy documents and risk assessments to see if they need updating.
  • Take action on lessons learned, including findings from audit and inspection reports.