We are nearly at the end of January, everyone is getting back into the swing of work for this new year now and it’s a great time for your WHS Manual review. Whatever safety documents you currently have in place, one of the most critical aspects of managing them is regular consultation and review to ensure they still suit your operations. Out of date safety policies, plans and procedures are useless.
It can be overwhelming to tackle this seemingly large task; however, if you systemise this process you can keep on top of it painlessly.
Once a year is generally a good timeframe for conducting a WHS Manual Review. You should also review your documents if:
- they are not effectively managing the risk
- you identify new hazards or risks
- you introduce changes to your work environment, business or key personnel
- you get new equipment or chemicals
- consultation indicates you need to review them, or your workers ask you to review them
- you have an incident.
Locate and organise
First, if you don’t already have things collated and organised, I recommend taking the time to locate all the elements of your Safety Management System – including all forms, procedures, policies and other relevant documents. Ensure everything is together in one place and the most current version you have. All outdated versions should be marked as obsolete and stored in an appropriate folder.
It is a good idea to use a cloud-based storage system to ensure the files are secure as well as allow all workers to have access to them.
Review and update
Now that you have everything together, start with your WHS Policy – is the Policy appropriate to your organisation, does it state your commitments, is it signed and dated? Continue with any other Policy documents, as per the WHS Policy, then review each procedure and form to ensure it is adequate, appropriate and effective.
You also need to review the relevant legislation, codes of practice and standards to ensure any updates are reflected in your documents and work processes.
Document Control and Record-Keeping
Document control is simply a matter of noting dates, version numbers, status (draft or final / approved) and who authorised the versions.
It’s important that you can show your documents have been approved by the highest possible authority in your workplace.
Consultation is a legal requirement under Legislation, so it is vital to include your workers and any other stakeholders in this process, you can consult in a variety of ways. Consultation means giving employees the chance to shape health and safety decisions and actions taken by their employer. Telling people about them afterwards isn’t consultation.
If you already have consultation procedures in place, these should be followed.
The following must be included as part of all consultation:
- Your workers must be given information in relation to health and safety matters that could affect them. They must have enough time to consider, discuss and then give their feedback.
- It is important to ensure information is in a form that can easily be understood, this may include technical information or guidance or further information about work systems. Don’t withhold information just because it is technical – give workers time to process and seek advice on any information provided.
- You must have a way to consult with workers from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.
- Employees must be given a chance to express their views about health and safety matters. Encourage questions, any concerns to be raised as well as proposals of options and solutions. Include them in the problem-solving process.
- Face to face is recommended; however not always an option. If necessary, video meetings can be conducted using Zoom or similar.
- If there are HSRs, you must meet with them on the matter.
- Before a final decision is made, respond to all concerns and questions – also advise what options were considered and explain the final decision and why this choice was made.
Don’t shred past versions or completely overwrite your documents, as you may need to refer to these for legal and/or ‘knowledge preservation’ purposes. To make sure there’s no confusion, and no one can use them:
- clearly mark them as obsolete. A big red stamp or watermark across the page that says ‘replaced’ with a date may be all you need!
- move them into an archive area, whether that’s online or physical.
Make sure you tell everyone that there are new versions that should now be used. If you have documents displayed or used around your workplace, remove and replace them.
Do you have old procedures sitting in random folders on your computer or a cobbled-together series of documents that is hard to use, or have no time to conduct a WHS Manual Review?