Health & Safety Management Systems: Focus on Management: Health and Safety Management Systems Can Drastically Reduce Injuries, Illnesses and Their Associated Costs. in Developing These Systems, as This Article Explains, Leadership and Management Commitment Are the Most Critical Elements

Article excerpt

Occupational health & safety management systems (OHSMS) are becoming the method of choice for "high-performance" organizations looking for excellence in their safety and health process. This article is focused on the management aspect of these systems and the overall continuous improvement process.

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There are numerous guidelines and voluntary standards for management systems dealing with safety and health. Implementation of management systems, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), have routinely demonstrated that they can reduce occupational injuries and illnesses and their associated costs by one half. There are currently 1,256 VPP worksites according to OSHA's Web site.

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports approximately 6,000 occupational deaths and another 6 million injuries and illness annually resulting in nearly 2.8 million lost workdays. The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index estimated that occupational accidents in the United States cost employers $49.6 billion in 2002. These concerns extend beyond the United States. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates there are 1.2 million occupational deaths resulting from 250 million accidents and 160 million illnesses worldwide each year.

Realizing these numbers and costs, more employers are implementing health and safety management systems as a method to continuously improve their safety and health performance as well as save substantial sums of money.

HEALTH & SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

In addition to OSHA's VPP, there are a number of national and international guidelines and standards for occupational health and safety management systems, including:

* Responsible Care (American Chemistry Council)

* Guidelines for Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (International Labour Organization)

* BSI: 18001--Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (British Standards Institution)

* ANSI Z10 Draft--Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (American National Standards Institute)

There are additional guidelines and standards for health and safety management systems from other sources such as governmental entities, like the Department of Energy (DOE), standards organizations, industry groups and private industry. There are far more similarities than differences in these systems. Management leadership and commitment are key components in all these guidelines and standards.

MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP AND CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT

Management systems require management leadership. Management owns and controls these systems as they do other business-related systems. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for an organization to be successful without leadership and management commitment.

As described in the draft standard, ANSI Z10, "An occupational health and safety management system is a set of interrelated elements that establish occupational health and safety policy and objectives, and mechanisms to achieve those objectives in order to continually improve performance ... The management system approach differs from traditional health and safety programs by its emphasis on eliminating the underlying or root causes of failures and by the explicit goal of continual improvement."

In other words, health and safety management systems focus on processes that drive safety excellence.

Each of the listed voluntary standards emphasizes the importance of "continual improvement" in the management system. As outlined in Figure 1, the continuous improvement cycle generally consists of the PDCA model: Plan, Do, Check and Act. This means planning policy (Plan), implementing policy (Do), assessing and reviewing policy (Check) and making necessary adjustments or corrections (Act).

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* POLICY

Senior management's vision and leadership are the key ingredients in creating and establishing a policy that expresses the organization's culture and health and safety values. …