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To what extent should management be involved in your OH&SMS?

The OHSAS 18001 standard requires management input at various stages in the lifecycle of an organization’s OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System). Previously, in the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO/DIS 45001, we examined the role that the organizational leaders should have, which included the alignment of an OH&S Policy and company objectives including management review, ensuring the correct resources are available to the OH&SMS, addressing risk and promoting good performance and continual improvement, and so forth. These mandatory requirements – amongst others – still stand, but during the lifecycle of the OH&SMS are there particular times when management presence and influence can be particularly critical to your system, and help ensure that your objectives are met?

Management involvement – When is it needed?

Outside of the mandatory tasks we have referred to above, there are several key times when management input, presence, and influence can be key to not only operating an OH&SMS that meets its objectives, but to establishing a culture of safety that will benefit your organization in the long run. Let us look at some of these circumstances and the reasons why management input may benefit your organization here:

  • Major OH&SMS policy changes: At times where major changes are decided and communicated, management involvement can be key to reminding your workforce that health and safety matters and the organization takes it seriously. Changes tend to be assimilated and implemented more quickly when management presence is visual and obvious.
  • Incident investigations: Again, good management systems operate on the basis that prevention is preferable to cure; nonetheless, management involvement in investigations again demonstrates the management’s commitment to resolving issues and continual improvement. This also applies to internal audit and risk assessment elements.
  • Regular reviews and communications: Nothing is quite as effective at establishing a culture of safety as visible management presence when data is being reviewed and staff consultation sought. Regular communication and exchange of opinions between the workforce and top management help to reinforce not only that all opinions have merit and worth, but that the organizational leaders value the company’s health and safety enough to devote time and energy to taking all opinions into account in the search for solutions.
  • Communications to external stakeholders: In my experience, when top management are held accountable for communicating to external stakeholders, its interest in ensuring internal objectives are met is increased. Ensuring top management presence at external communications and periodic reviews can help ensure that the drive for improved health and safety filters from the top of the organization downwards, and the perception that OH&S is of prime importance exists.
  • Leading by example: Again, this is critical to morale as well as establishing good practice. Ensure that your management team wears the correct safety gear, whether that is overalls, protective glasses, earmuffs, or whatever is required when in areas that require them to do so. The first rule of establishing a culture of safety is to demonstrate to your workforce what is acceptable by your own behavior, and not to expect your top team and workforce to operate within different rules.

Good management involvement – What does it achieve?

As indicated above, the correct amount of management involvement and appropriate behavior helps reinforce the message that OH&S is of prime importance to your organization. It can also help staff morale greatly in demonstrating that your top team cares about the health and well-being of the employees, and that the behavior of the top team supports that theory. Continued management involvement at the suggested times in the lifecycle of the OH&SMS can go a long way towards ensuring objectives are met by helping to establish a culture where OH&S is uppermost in everyone’s mind, and all employees feel involved, engaged, and their opinions valued. Exclude and discourage management involvement at critical times, and you will find that your OH&SMS results suffer and objectives are more difficult to meet. Even more importantly, when your culture regarding the importance of OH&S within your organization diminishes, this can be very difficult to reverse. Use management involvement in the correct way, and you can be well on the way towards continual improvement and achieving your goals.

Why not use our free  Project proposal for OHSAS 18001 Implementation to present your implementation project to your management?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.