What Is A Health and Safety Management System

This is a systematic process that looks at the operations of the organization and identifies and assesses all hazards and potential hazards within the workplace in order to minimize the incidence of injury and illness within the workplace. The key steps include:  an identified commitment from upper management to implement a safety culture for the benefit of all workers and the organization; the identification of all hazards; control of those hazards through scheduled inspection and maintenance processes for machinery, and worker competency training; and, an ongoing inspection/audit process to identify any new hazards and to ensure policies/procedures coincide with process and/or training competencies and that all policies/procedures are being implemented, all maintained and enforced through a hierarchical management process.

Where Do You Start With A Safety Management System?

It all begins by having a committed buy in from the top of the organization, which filters downwards with controls to maintain that commitment, all accomplished through the establishment of a written policy which states the employer’s commitment to health and safety, and the overall goals and objectives for the organizations program, the health and safety responsibilities of management, worker, visitor and contractor. This document becomes the cornerstone from which the process gets underway and is dated and signed by a senior operating manager and/or CEO.

Getting Underway With Policies and Procedures to Reduce/Eliminate Hazards Based On Best Practices!

Now that the organization has a clear understanding and commitment to getting underway with a safety management system, and the organization knows everyone is on the same page to reduce injuries and workplace hazards, the process begins by identifying all hazards, and the creating of policies and procedures to reflect the organizations operational procedures through best practices to reduce/eliminate those hazards “from the source, pathway, or worker” through engineered controls, administrative controls, and/or personal protective equipment. All workers require training reflective of the policies and procedures and related work as assigned by the organization to control the identified hazards.
The bottom line – all workers need to know how to do their jobs safely without risk of injury or to health, and this goes even further with respect to new workers who require time and training and orientation. All workers need to know the steps/process to take when they identify a potential hazard or breakdown in process/machinery in order to quickly resolve the problem; and, they need to know they are part of a team committed to the overall objectives and statements as provided by the written policy of the management system.


Worker Competencies and Measurement

The truth is not everyone is suited to the job! It is not good enough to take for granted that someone can do a specific task like another, and this is especially the case where heavy equipment and/or processes can be involved where competencies are directly related to safe practices. Once training and testing has been conducted with workers, it is the responsibility of supervisors and management to ensure policy and procedures are being followed correctly. This can be achieved through random spot audits of a worker providing documentation on evaluation of competencies, and this can also provide an opportunity for the reinforcement of proper protocols and to correct the worker towards the safe and directed manner in which a task or operation is to be carried out as stated in the procedure; moreover, it provides an ongoing document of worker competencies and performance for future address.


Implementing an Inspection Program

The importance of an inspection program cannot be overstated. It is an integral component to the safety management system. Once all hazards have been identified and their degree of risk (and level of potential exposure) for workers, the program can be used to track and to ensure control measures are in place and effectively working to protect workers. In addition, the inspection program helps identify any new or potentially harmful hazard that needs to be addressed. Both formal and informal inspection tours should be utilized. These include a multitude of approaches from using standardized inspection forms to the documenting of current conditions, processes, and any changes therein; and also, obtaining information on performance issues and worker knowledge/critique of equipment and/or operational processes which may provide information for improvements/efficiencies.
Records are an important component of the inspection program for two reasons; first, they provide the information needed for management to decide upon the speedy resolve of related hazard issues; and, secondly they provide ongoing documentation of hazard resolve and or efficiencies improvements which becomes important if ever required to prove due diligence!


Record Keeping Importance: Incident Reporting and Investigation

As discussed, records are extremely important for providing speedy resolve of identified hazard issues and also for due diligence. When an accident/incident does occur, a workplace investigation into the cause must be completed to prevent the recurrence of a similar repeat incidence. Identified factors may call for change in control methods, design, and/or training. The investigation itself should be conducted as soon as possible after an incidence has occurred, in order to secure the scene, interview witnesses, obtain photos, in addition to other information for the proper documentation and resolve of the issue.

Once the investigation has been completed and all reporting conducted, respective changes should be implemented to prevent against future recurrence. The records now become part of the system in monitoring improvements within the overall program effectiveness. Some of the ongoing documentation should include: hazard assessment and control records, workplace inspection forms, incident investigation reports, employee training records and perhaps spot audits of performance, maintenance logs, safety/committee meeting minutes, and current/updated safe work practices and procedures.


The Importance of the Emergency Response Plan

Each workplace is required to determine their hazard risks (and this takes into account operational processes and any potential disaster) and put in place an emergency response plan. All parties within the workplace must be trained in the emergency response procedures and this should include periodic drills to test the effectiveness of the response plan. Communication protocols should be in place so people can communicate, and records should be kept with respect to the drills and response times (and any identified issues).

Overall objective of the Safety Management System: to put in place an adopted systematic process whereby the whole organization is accountable for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all people, through a controlled and accountable mechanism.

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