Best Practices for Management Leadership in an OHSMS


OHSMS Best Practices for Management Leadership and Employee Participation Image

In this article, we’re going to look at some best practices for management leadership in your workplace occupational health and safety management system, or OHSMS.

This is one of a series of articles discussing health and safety management systems. If you’ve missed the other articles in this series, we’ve got a list of them plus links at the bottom.

The entire series of articles is based on information from ANSI Z10, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. As we’ve said in the earlier articles, we highly recommend that you buy a copy of the Z10 standard for yourself. There’s a ton of useful information in it, including a large collection of helpful appendices at the end. It never hurts to take some guidance and get some helpful resources from the experts at ANSI and ASSE. The cost is $105.

With the scene now set, let’s get on to the focus of this article: management leadership in your health and safety management system.

Management Leadership of the Occupational Health and Safety Management System

Section 3 of ANSI Z10 “defines the requirements for management leadership and employee participation” in your health and safety management system.

It’s up to management leadership to direct an organization to create, operate, and continually improve an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS).

The OHSMS should match the ANSI Z10 benchmarks (or those of another standard or guideline) that are appropriate for the type of organization, it’s size, and the safety and health risks the organization faces.

How can you know if management is really involved and committed? Z10 notes that “Top management involvement and commitment can be measured by inclusion of the OHSMS as an element of the organization’s business plan, time spent on OHS, visible personal participation in OHS, and the number of OHSMS tasks performed” (by management).

In addition, communicating is key as well. Z10 notes that “leadership by top management includes communicating not only what needs to be done by why it should be done.”

Establishing the Occupational Health and Safety Policy

A top responsibility of management is to establish a documented health and safety policy. This policy is the bedrock or foundation of the OHSMS.

The occupational health and safety (OHS) policy should explain the organization’s commitments to the four points below:

  • Protection of employee health and safety
  • Continual improvement of employee health and safety
  • Active employee participation in the occupational health and safety management system and safety culture
  • Conformance with the organization’s health and safety requirements
  • Compliance with all relevant health and safety laws and regulations

There’s no single “perfect” way to write your occupational safety and health policy, and it will be different (if similar) for every organization. It’s important to express it in a manner that best reflects your organization’s culture and its safety and health values.

Once the occupational safety and health policy has been created, make sure it’s:

  • Dated
  • Signed
  • Communicated to all employees (it’s a good idea to let them read it and keep it somewhere they can read it over time)
  • Made available over time to relevant external parties. This could include your contractors, customers, suppliers, and vendors; your local community; and other stakeholders

Management Responsibilities for Implementing, Maintaining, and Monitoring Performance of the OHSMS

Top management isn’t responsible for creating, implementing, maintaining, or monitoring the OHSMS. But they are responsible for providing the leadership for these, and they’re ultimately responsible for ensuring they happen. This responsibility includes:

  • Providing resources appropriately
  • Establishing the different required roles, responsibilities, accountability, and authority
  • Integrating the OHSMS into the organization’s other business systems and processes

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Allocating Resources for the OHSMS

It’s up to management to provide appropriate organizational, financial, and human resources to plan, implement, operate, monitor, evaluate, correct, and review the OHSMS.

Establishing and Delegating Roles, Responsibilities, Accountability, and Authority for the OHSMS

Management must define roles; assign responsibilities; establish accountabilities; and delegate authority to implement the OHSMS, and management should document those roles and responsibilities.

In addition, Z10 notes that while authority is delegated, “Top management should not simply delegate implementation of the OHSMS to other members” and that “visible leadership by management sets the tone for the entire organization which is much more effective than if driven by health and safety staff.” So, in short, management must stay active and actively involved.

Integration the OHSMS into the Organization’s Systems and Processes

The OHSMS shouldn’t and can’t be an island unto itself or be “siloed.”

Instead, management must integrate the OHSMS into the organization’s other business systems and processes. This includes making sure that the organization’s systems for compensation, performance reviews, rewards, and recognition are aligned with the OHS policy and the objectives of the OHSMS.

Here are some of the systems and processes the OHSMS should be integrated with:

  • Production
  • Quality
  • Purchasing
  • Facilities and/or materials management
  • Environmental management systems
  • Permit management systems
  • Safety data sheet (SDS/MSDS) information systems
  • Risk management systems
  • Insurance information systems
  • Training
  • Human resources recruitment
  • Worker and incentive compensation systems
  • External regulatory, community affairs, and sustainability communications teams

Conclusion: Management Leadership and Employee Participation in OHSMS

With that, we’ve concluded our look at the issues of management leadership in an effective Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS).

If you have experience establishing, implementing, maintaining, evaluating, and/or improving an OHSMS at a workplace, we’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.

We mentioned earlier that this article is part of a larger series on occupational health and safety management systems. Here are the other articles in that series:

In addition, you may also know that OSHA has now released their own Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs. We recommend you check out the OSHA guidelines and read our overview of OSHA’s Safety and Health Programs Guideline (2016). And of course, we’ve all learned that 45001 is now final and will be released soon, so watch for that as well.

If you made it this far-congratulations. Reward yourself by downloading the free Guide to Effective EHS Training below.


Effective EHS Training: A Step-by-Step Guide

Learn how to design, create, deliver, and evaluate effective EHS training by following these best practices with our free step-by-step guide.

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