System documentation and adminstrative controls

Administrative controls for safety systems form a critical part of the hierarchy of control, and can provide workers with the information they need to safely access high risk work areas.

Having thoroughly documented safety procedures for both systems and completing work is a critical part of creating a safe workplace. For workers, these documents provide guidance in how to correctly use safety systems to ensure they function as designed. For building owners, facility managers and other PCBUs they serve an important role in demonstrating how obligations under WHS laws are being met, thus minimising liability in the event of an accident.

There are several different types of documents that can form part of the administrative controls of a site. For building owners and facility managers, their controls can include documents like system operation manuals, site sign-on sheets and checklists.

For employers, safe work method statements and safe work procedures can form important parts of their administrative controls for risk mitigation.

Workers should always make sure they are familiar with the contents of these documents, and that any conflicts between them are raised and addressed prior to starting work.

Workers running through site documentation prior to beginning work.
Warning sign indicating that protective footwear must be worn.

Documentation for building owners and facility managers

In simple terms, building owners, facility managers and others in similar roles have a responsibility to create a safe place of work for those entering their site. To assist in this, there are many types of documentation that may be needed to assist workers in understanding where safety risks are and how they are best mitigated.

Any installed safety system should have a document that outlines how the system is to be used, as well as any limitations or restrictions on that use that may exist. A document like this can also inform workers of the equipment they may need to use.

Further to this, when a worker does come on site, there should be a procedure and checklist to ensure they understand the system and have the skills and equipment required to complete the work safely. This sort of document could also serve as a “sign-on” sheet, so that a record of their being on site is made.

Even something as simple as a warning or danger sign can be included under the banner on administrative controls.

Evacuation posters and area warden noficiation signs can form part of a site's administrative control documents.

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Documentation for contractors and employers

The responsibility for employers and contractors is to create a safe system of work for their employees and team members. This can take the form of having document procedures in place for performing work safely, developing rescue plans and systems for ensuring worker skills are kept current and up to date in line with industry best practice.

A safe work method statement (SWMS) is a document that outlines how work is to be safely completed. The SWMS can also outline what risks there are to worker safety while the job is being completed, and details on how those risks are to be mitigated. Normally, workers sign on to a SWMS before commencing work, indicating their understanding of how work should be performed and what risk mitigation steps should be taken.

In order to ensure that workers keep their skills up to date, an employer may have a professional development or training plans that need to be followed. Having a training plan in place can help make sure that workers complete regular refresher training courses. Maybe work sites require that training courses be redone on a regular schedule. This can be annually (in the case of CPR) or after a couple of years (Work safely at heights).

Safety documentation and administrative controls are about ensuring particular behaviours are followed when performing work.

Safe work method statement document and HazOb booklet.

Working together to improve safety

No matter your role on a worksite, it is important that everybody take safety seriously. If issues, problems or discrepancies between documents are discovered they should be addressed. Workers should be encouraged to make sure that their workplace is as safe as practicable prior to starting, having any safety concerns taken seriously and addressed.

Having administrative controls and safety documentation only works if workers are supported in making sure they can be followed.

Protecting people cannot be an afterthought. Creating a culture of safety at your company or worksite can bring substantial benefits in both the short and long term. These can include reduced downtime from team members needing time off to recover from injuries, to reduced insurance premiums and being able to complete jobs in a more efficient manner. Companies with a strong safety record are also seen as preferred employers. At a time when finding team members to increase capacity is difficult, having a strong safety culture makes companies stand out in the market.