If you want a workplace that’s healthier and safer, health and safety management systems are key.
Here’s how OSHA puts it in their Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs:
Establishing a safety and health program in your workplace is one of the most effective ways of protecting your most valuable asset: your workers.
And here’s how ANSI Z10, the national standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, puts it:
There is widespread agreement that the use of management systems can improve organizational performance, including performance in the occupational health and safety arena.
In this article, we’ll explain what a health and safety management system is, list the key elements of a health and safety management system, give you tips for getting a health and safety system in place at your work, and provide some additional helpful resources.
Health and Safety Management Systems: Get It Right in Five Steps
The ANSI Z10 standard on occupational health and safety management systems breaks the process of putting together a health and safety management system down into five sections or steps. We’ll present and describe those five key elements of a health and safety management system below.
Step 1: Management Leadership and Employee Participation in a Health and Safety Management System
Job one of creating an effective health and safety management system is to get management to buy-in, support, and provide leadership while also doing everything possible to ensure employee participation. Let’s quickly look at each side of this.
Management Leadership of the Health and Safety Management System
Management leadership should direct the organization to establish, implement, and maintain the health and safety management system.
Elements of management leadership include:
- Establishing a health and safety policy at the workplace
- Providing appropriate resources for the health and safety management system
- Establishing and delegating roles, responsibilities, accountability, and authority for the health and safety management system
- Integrating the health and safety management system into the organization’s other systems and processes
Z10 notes that “top management involvement and commitment can be measured” by inclusion of the health and safety management system as an element of the organization’s business plan, by time spent on safety and health, by visible participation in occupational safety and health, and by the number of safety and health management tasks management performs.
Further, Z10 notes that “leadership by top management includes communicating not only what needs to be done by why it should be done.”
Employee Participation in the Health and Safety Management System
OSHA’s recommended practices for safety and health management systems makes this note about the importance of worker participation:
TO BE EFFECTIVE, any safety and health program needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives. Workers have much to gain from a successful program, and the most to lose if the program fails. They also often know the most about potential hazards associated with their jobs. Successful programs tap into this knowledge base.
To facilitate and ensure employee participation in your health and safety management system, Z10 offers the following tips:
- Provide employees with the time, resources, and means necessary
- Give employees timely access to relevant information
- Identify and remove barriers to employee participation in the health and safety management system
See this article to read more about management leadership and employee participation in an occupational health and safety management system.
Step 2: Planning a Health and Safety Management System
As you might have guessed, an effective health and safety management system doesn’t happen without a good deal of thought and planning.
OSHA’s recommended practices for safety and health management touch on the importance of planning in this recommendation:
By establishing specific goals and objectives, management sets expectations for managers, supervisors, and workers, and for the program overall. The goals and objectives should focus on specific actions that will improve workplace safety and health.
In section 4.0, the Z10 standard explains that the broad purposes of planning are to:
- Identify OHSMS issues (hazards, risks, management system deficiencies, and opportunities for improvement)
- Prioritize those issues identified
- Establish objectives that offer the greatest chances for safety and health management system improvements and risk reduction
The planning process isn’t something you do just once. Instead, it’s an ongoing and recurring process. As a result, the planning process includes what’s called an initial review and then later, periodic reviews.
Z10 breaks down planning into the following four action items:
- Gather and review relevant information to identify safety and health management system issues
- Prioritize the safety and health management system issues identified during the review mentioned above
- Develop objectives for the safety and health management system and for risk control based on the prioritized safety and health management system issues
- Create implementation plan to accomplish the prioritized objectives above
See this article to read more about planning a health and safety management system.
Step 3: Implementing and Operating a Health and Safety Management System
Once you’ve planned your health and safety system, the obvious next steps are to implement it and then operate it.
OSHA’s recommended practices for safety and health management address this with a strong emphasis on hazard identification and assessment and, naturally, hazard prevention and control. They provide a list of “10 Easy Things to Get Your Program Started” and that list includes basics like:
- Implement a reporting system
- Train workers how to identify and control hazards
- Conduct inspections
- Collect hazard control ideas
- Implement hazard control ideas
- Address/anticipate workplace emergencies
- Seek input on workplace changes
ANSI Z10 goes into a little more detail here, and lists the following aspects of implementing and operating:
- Operational elements, including:
- Risk assessments
- Hierarchy of control
- Design review and management of change processes
- Process verification
- Emergency preparedness
See this article to read more about implementing and operating a health and safety management system.
Step 4: Monitoring, Evaluating, and Correcting a Health and Safety Management System
Implementing a health and safety management system is a good start. But it’s just a start. You’ll want to monitor it, evaluate its effectiveness, and make necessary corrections over time as well.
OSHA’s recommended practices for safety and health management address this issue in point 10 of their list of “10 Easy Things to Get Your Program Started,” where they put it quite simply:
10. Make Improvements-Set aside a regular time to discuss safety and health issues, with the goal of identifying ways to improve the program.
The Z10 standard for health and safety management is based on the Deming Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, and as a result has a strong emphasis on continuous improvement.
To make this happen, Z10 suggests setting up processes to perform (and performing) the following:
- Monitoring, measuring, and assessing your health and safety management system
- Performing incident investigations
- Auditing your health and safety management system
- Performing corrective actions (of your health and safety management system) when necessary
- Updating the planning process and management review of your health and safety management system
See this article to read more about monitoring, evaluating, and correcting a health and safety management system.
Step 5: Management Review of the Health and Safety Management System
Step 5 is to set up recurrent management reviews of the health and safety management system.
It’s not proper to think of this as the final step, because a health and safety management system relies on an endless cycle of continuous improvement, and therefore there’s no true end point when you can wipe your hands, walk away, and let the health and safety management system operate on its own. It’s a continual process. But still, management review is the last step in our five-point presentation.
Here’s how the OSHA recommendations on safety and health management put it:
ONCE A SAFETY and health program is established, it should be evaluated initially to verify that it is being implemented as intended. After that, employers should periodically, and at least annually, step back and assess what is working and what is not, and whether the program is on track to achieve its goals. Whenever these assessments identify opportunities to improve the program, employers, managers, and supervisors—in coordination with workers—should make adjustments and monitor how well the program performs as a result. Sharing the results of monitoring and evaluation within the workplace, and celebrating successes, will help drive further improvement.
In this phase, which should happen at least yearly, top management of the organization works together with with health and safety management who “own” the health and safety management system, process owners, and rank and file employees to identify any serious risks and/or management system deficiencies, to determine how to solve any, and to ensure resources are allocated to solve them.
During the management review, consider the following types of data:
- Overall trends and progress toward risk reduction
- Effectiveness of efforts and processes to identify, assess, and prioritize risk
- Effectiveness of efforts and processes to identify, assess, and prioritize system deficiencies
- Effectiveness of processes intended to address underyling causes of risks and system deficiencies
- Input from employees and employee representatives
- Status updates on corrective actions, preventive actions, and changing circumstances
- Follow-up actions and status updates from safety and health management system audits and previous management review of the safety and health management system
- Status updates on the extent to which the safety and health management system has met the objectives of the safety and health management system
- Performance of the safety and health management system relative to expectations, taking into account changing circumstances, resources needs, alignment of the business plan, and general consistency of the organizations’ occupational health and safety policy
Decisions made during the management review of the health and safety management system should:
- Future direction of the safety and health management system based on the organization’s safety policy, business strategies, and overall operating conditions
- Need for changes to the organizations’ policy, priorities, objectives, resources, or other parts of the safety and health management system
After the management review, create a summary of the review that lists the top commitments of upper management and a list of action items, including listing the person responsible for completing the items and target completion dates.
It’s a good idea to periodically distribute status updates on the results of those action items.
See this article to read more about management review of a health and safety management system.
Conclusion: Five Steps to Better Health and Safety Management Systems
We hope you enjoyed this overview of five steps to implementing, operating, and continually improving a health and safety management system.
Remember that this article was largely based on the ANSI Z10 standard, which we recommend you buy and use for your company.
Remember also that OSHA recently published its own recommendations for safety and health management, and that we referred to this document as well. You may also want to check that out.
If you have experience establishing, implementing, operating, and improving a health and safety management system at work, please share your experiences below. Questions go in the same place. Have a great day!
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