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.
This article draws recommendations, tips, suggestions, guidelines, and quotes from the ANSI Z10 safety management standard and from OSHA's safety management guidelines. You may also be interested in this article that lists and explains several different safety management guidelines and standards.
Plus, feel free to download our free Getting Started with Safety Management infographic, too.
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 explain and describe those five key elements of a successful health and safety management system in more detail below.
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 should direct the organization to establish, implement, and maintain the health and safety management system.
Elements of management leadership include:
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.”
It's not enough, though, to get management on board. As in all safety culture issues, employee involvement is also key.
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:
See this article to read more about management leadership and employee participation in an occupational 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:
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:
See this article to read more about planning 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 put it into operation.
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:
ANSI Z10 goes into a little more detail here, and lists the following aspects of implementing and operating:
See this article to read more about implementing and operating 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:
See this article to read more about monitoring, evaluating, and correcting a 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:
Decisions made during the management review of the health and safety management system should:
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.
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.
And finally, remember that ISO 45001, the global standard for occupational health and safety management systems, was recently finalized. Check out our interview introduction ISO 45001.
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.