Two Important Aspects of a Successful Health and Safety Management System
Accidents at the workplace cause injuries and often lead to employees becoming disabled. Employers have the responsibility to ensure safe and healthy work environments to prevent accidents. Apart from achieving their goals of ensuring the health and safety of workers (and visitors to the work premises) because they have a social responsibility, employers also do so to meet legislative requirements, to minimise costs associated with downtime, reduce loss of income, and prevent financial losses associated with worker compensation for injuries. In addition, their reputation as responsible employers is also affected by how they manage health and safety.
With the above in mind, the setting up and implementation of a health and safety management system that meets South African legislative requirements and international standards is essential. We take a look at two of the important components of such an effective health and safety management system.
Leadership Commitment and Responsibility
The system can only be effective if the leaders of the organisation are committed and involved in the development and implementation of the health and safety management system. To do so, they need to put the organisation’s policy on health and safety in writing. They need to state their commitment, overall goals regarding health and safety management for the organisation, and the objectives of the system. They also need to document the responsibilities of all employees including management, contractors, and site visitors. This is a legislative requirement to ensure that the organisation meets its own standards regarding health and safety.
It is essential to involve relevant employees, such as the risk managers, safety representatives, and officers, in the policy drafting. The document must be signed by the appointed senior manager who represents the management team of the organisation. As part of strong leadership in the implementation of the health and safety management system, the management team must see to it that all employees are made aware of the policy and understand it. There should be a manual to that effect, in which the employees are trained and that they have access to. This should also apply to contractors on site.
The responsibilities regarding health and safety roles must be communicated throughout the organisation to ensure that employees understand their accountability and the performance requirements. This must be done according to the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and relevant international standards, such as BS OHSAS 18001. It is also essential to document the consequences of non-compliance by employees, contractors, and site visitors and what management’s responsibility is regarding this. As part of the commitment requirement, management should attend health and safety meetings, workshops, and training. Senior management should undertake site inspections at set intervals.
Importance of Employee Participation
Effective health and safety management is only possible if the employees are involved in the creation of policies, understand their roles, and actively participate to ensure the success of the system. As such, management must ensure that the employees are trained in the various aspects of the health and safety management system, legislative compliance, understanding of applicable standards, internal auditing, and lead internal auditing processes, as relevant. Safety representative training, safety officer training, OHSAS workshops, training in emergency response, accident investigation, first aid, fire safety, hazard identification, risk analysis, and more should be undertaken and provided to the relevant employees, according to their roles and responsibilities.
Part of the programme entails the setting up of a worksite health and safety committee where employer and employee representatives collaborate in the identification of health and safety risks and issues at the premises of the employer. The committee’s role must be to make recommendations and should not be to make changes.
A second and very important component of a successful health and safety management system is that of hazard identification and the assessment of the identified hazards. Leadership commitment to this process is also essential to ensure proactive identification of issues. For this, it is essential to train relevant employees in hazard identification and assessment. It is furthermore essential to ensure that employees on all levels are involved. To this end, hazard awareness training must be conducted.
An example is that of workers working on a site where large vehicles also operate. Though workers generally know to look out for moving vehicles and equipment, they must be trained in understanding the risks of, for instance, parking in the wrong spot, being too close to operating cranes, or walking across the path or next to large vehicles where the operators are unable to see the workers. Another example is the importance of training workers in road safety. Though the workers may already have their driver’s licenses, they must still be trained in pre-inspections, post-inspections, and safe operation of company vehicles.
Employers need to assess their worksites for current and potential hazards before work at the specific sites can commence. The process is extremely important, as it forms the basis of what to do in response to emergency situations, how to prevent future incidents, and to ensure ongoing safety at the workplace. As part of developing and implementing a health and safety management system, proper training and awareness development must take place on how to review, interpret and analyse hazard assessment data.
Management must first determine what training is needed and which awareness programmes to put in place. It is also important to provide training regarding site inspections and to draft site inspection lists. Emergency response plans must be developed. As such, it is also important to use the assessments in determining which response plans to develop. The assessment data is furthermore important to determine whether the system failure has resulted in a particular incident. If so, then the system must be changed.
The above are but two components of an effective health and safety management system development plan. We provide training in all aspects mentioned and more, including all the components of such a system. In addition, we provide consultation services, guidance, and assistance in preparing for legislative and international standard compliance, as well as integrating the health and safety management system with existing management systems in the organisation.