Safety Management Systems
Reasons for organisations to implement an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) are wide and varied – and include legal obligations, ethical concerns, industrial relations considerations and improving financial performance.
However, the reduction of workplace illness and injury, and minimising the costs associated with workplace accidents should be the primary motive for the implementation of an effective OHSMS. These systems are also used by some organisations to demonstrate, internally and in some cases externally, that they are systematically controlling the risks to all persons affected by the organisations activities, products or services.
To ensure that an organisation complies with relevant OHS legislation, standards and codes of practice, it requires the need to implement an effective OHSMS. The system needs to be appropriate and reflect the OHS issues within the organisation. To achieve this, the system needs to have the following components:
An OHS policy
This policy is the cornerstone of an effective OHSMS and demonstrates management’s commitment and objectives. This includes a commitment to comply with relevant OHS legislation, establish objectives and targets and the elimination of work related illness and injury. It needs to be reviewed periodically (at least bi-annually) to ensure that it remains relative to the organisations objectives.
Initially this includes setting of objectives, targets and establishment of performance indicators. Allocation of responsibilities and resources need to be considered. The planning process needs to address the regular and systematic identification of hazards and then develop the controls necessary to eliminate, isolate or minimise these hazards. Procedures should be developed to make sure that planning is undertaken in the continuing operations of the organisation.
For the organisation to achieve its objectives of it OHS policies it is critical that adequate and appropriate resources – financial, human and material – are allocated. Responsibilities need to be defined and designated, with an effective reporting relationship between management, employees, contractors, subcontractors and visitors. Consultation and involvement of both management and employees will aid in establishing common goals and facilitate the development and implementation of the organisations goals and objectives. In consultation with employees, training needs should be identified and procedures put in place to ensure that adequate training is provided and documented.
Measurement and evaluation
In order to ascertain whether an organisation is performing in accordance with its OHS plan and objectives laid out, it is necessary to have an evaluation and measurement process in place. All details – both positive and negative – need to be recorded and made available for all stakeholders to see. Audits, either internal or external, should be conducted periodically and used by management for review purposes. Accident investigations provide opportunities to examine the effectiveness of an organisations OHSMS. Remember that investigations need to be approached in identifying deficiencies in the system rather than apportioning blame.
Management review and improvement
Management review is the foundation of an ongoing and effective OHSMS, providing the opportunity for senior management to re-examine the suitability of the system in place, and where necessary to make adjustments that will improve its effectiveness. This process can be done at a strictly management level, or incorporate employee or other stakeholder representation. Factors to be considered can include changes in legislation, different technologies, lessons learned from OHS incidents and feedback from employees and stakeholders to name a few.
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