Why Implement an Occupational Health and Safety Management System?

May 29, 2015

While Occupational Health and Safety Programs are required under select circumstances under the WorkSafeBC (“WSBC”) Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (“OHSR”), for larger Employers an OHS Program is only one component of an overall OHS Management System (“OHSMS”).

What is an OHSMS? It is a business management system that is designed to manage the many safety elements in the workplace.  An OHSMS is not a separate department or entity within an organization; it is a comprehensive system that is embedded within the very fabric of a company, and is an integral part of each department and operation.

The overall goal of course is to prevent and reduce health and safety risks of an organization, and to promote and consistently maintain a healthy and safe work environment for all personnel.  An effective OHSMS should:

  • Define how a company is set up to manage safety risks.
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities of all involved personnel, and their accountability to the safety processes.
  • Identify processes to address workplace hazards, risks and required preventative controls.
  • Determine effective communication systems across all levels of an organization.
  • Have a proper continual improvement process that focuses on constant safety improvements across all organizational levels.

The Consequences of Not Implementing an OHSMS

There are many negative consequences of not having a proper or comprehensive OHSMS in place.  These negative impacts include but are not limited to:

  1. Increased safety hazards and risks.
  2. Government enforcement orders and/or administrative penalties (fines).
  3. Increased accidents or incidents and worker injuries.
  4. Increased number of disability claims.
  5. Increase in Employer compensation insurance premiums.
  6. Negative safety culture.
  7. Increased operational and productivity costs.
  8. Decreased productivity.
  9. Decreased employee morale.

An OHSMS can be thought of as the “glue” that holds an organization together, with safety as an integral part of each operation or department.  A properly implemented and comprehensive OHSMS assists companies with being successful from not just a worker health and safety standpoint, but also from a business perspective.  It is now no longer acceptable to harm or maim or kill employees, and companies who do so suffer more than just financial loss, but also that of reputation.

What are the Typical Elements of an OHSMS?

There are several elements of a typical OHSMS.  There are too many to list in this post, however, the primary components have been included below:

  1. Workplace hazard inspections and correction of unsafe acts/conditions.
  2. Control implementation.
  3. Accident/incident reporting and investigation.
  4. Refusal of unsafe work.
  5. Occupational first aid.
  6. Joint health and safety committee.
  7. Disciplinary action and compliance.
  8. Drug and alcohol.
  9. Workplace violence, bullying, harassment.
  10. Emergency preparedness and response.
  11. New and young work training and management.
  12. Safety education and training of personnel.
  13. Personal protective equipment (PPE).
  14. Contractor safety management.
  15. Safety statistics and trend analysis.
  16. Safety communications.
  17. Document and record maintenance etc.

Where Does Safety Fit in an Organization?

One may ask why does an OHSMS need to be integrated into a fabric of a company? Simply put, if your organization has people performing work to make you money, and there are departments that address the business and operations of that company, safety then becomes an important element in all aspects of the business.  These aspects include, but are not limited to:

  • Human Resources/Employment
  • Contractor Management
  • Line Management
  • Intranet & Web-based Programs
  • Legal/Risk Management
  • Contract Generation/Tendering
  • Operations/Field
  • Employee Performance
  • Quality Management
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Design & Planning
  • Financial Planning/Budgeting
  • Data Processing/Information Technology
  • Research & Development
  • Product/Project Management
  • Regulatory Compliance

Can you see how safety could be an important part of each of the above departments or operations?  Another way to ask the question is: how do business decisions within each department potentially impact worker health, safety and well being?

Where to go for help

Implementing a proper and comprehensive OHSMS is not an easy task.  There are many challenges from logistics, existing systems and documents, to infrastructure and budgets. And this is notwithstanding who is capable of designing and implementing such a system or set of systems.

It is important to engage the “right” resources when embarking on this safety venture. Failure to obtain the proper resources can easily result in poor implementation and a collapse of the entire OHSMS.  These resources can be internal (e.g. Safety Manager) or external (e.g. qualified Consultant). Regardless of who or what team is engaged, it is critical that all directly involved personnel not only have extensive knowledge of safety management systems, but also the technical “know how” of actually designing and implementing said systems. Professionals must also not only have intimate knowledge of the applicable governmental regulations, but also be “subject matter” experts in all required safety elements and topics, inclusive of industry-accepted standards, practices and even best management practices.

About Craig Yee - Occupational Health and Safety Consultant in Vancouver

Craig Yee is an Industrial Hygienist and Principal of OHS Global Risk Solutions. He earned his Masters Degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia. He has over 12 years of direct experience in the hygiene, health and safety industry in both public and private sectors. You can connect with him on Google+.

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