What is the role of the OH&S Manager according to ISO 45001?

Most organizations that have an OHSMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) certified against ISO 45001:2018 will tend to have an internal OH&S manager. The ISO 45001 standard itself makes no specific mention of a requirement for a position, mentioning only “top management” and making reference to people who will be nominated as regarded as being “responsible” for tasks within the OHSMS itself. However, many organizations that operate in sectors that demand a high level of OH&S (operational health and safety) knowledge and capability will normally tend to recruit a specialist manager with experience and qualifications for this position. So, given that this is the case, what capabilities and skill should an OH&S Manager have to ensure the organization is aligned with ISO 45001 and can deliver excellent OH&S performance?

The OH&S Manager – Skills and qualifications

As with many management positions, the OH&S Manager within many organizations may be expected to have some relevant qualifications. OH&S qualifications can vary in different countries, from university degrees to vocational qualifications. While formal qualifications are no guarantee of success, many large organizations prefer to have an OH&S manager with qualifications to represent the company and deal with stakeholders, as it is viewed as giving the company extra credibility. So, qualified or not, what core skills should the OH&S manager have? Let us examine:

  • Knowledge of legislation: The OHSMS will depend heavily on this, and the OH&S manager will need to know both how to find and comply with legislative requirements. You can find out more about this topic in the article 5 tips for overcoming the biggest challenges in the ISO 45001 implementation.
  • Good assessor of risk: This seems obvious, but is critical. A manager with a solid risk assessment background and a good eye for detail is critical to ensure a company can develop a culture of hazard identification and accident prevention. The article How to perform risk assessment in ISO 45001 can help you with this.
  • Good communication skills: The OH&S may, depending on the size of the organization, be the link between top management and employees. Therefore, it is critical that he/she can communicate effectively both downwards and up. You can find more about this element in the article How to comply with ISO 45001 communication requirements.
  • Leadership skills: Whether a formal member of “top management” or not, the OH&S manager will have to have the correct leadership skills to ensure the legislative and internal health and safety rules and processes are taken seriously, followed by employees, and improvement shown. You can find more details in the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO 45001.

So, given that we can see the requirements in terms of qualifications and skillset for an OH&S manager, what precisely should his/her job role be?

What role does the OH&S manager have to fulfill?

Again, the answer to this can vary to a degree on the basis of the size of your organization, but the OH&S manager will normally have to fulfill the following roles:

  • Ultimate responsibility for the OH&S performance of the organization
  • Responsibility for policy decisions and strategic direction that the organization may undertake in terms of OH&S
  • Communication of all appropriate information to stakeholders, internal and external
  • Ensuring that consultation takes place internally to ensure processes are safe and decisions that are made are as well informed as possible
  • Responsibility for ensuring the organization meets all legislative requirements
  • Responsibility for all delegation and specification of duties, roles, and responsibilities to ensure clarity in terms of how the OHSMS operates
  • Responsibility to organize periodic testing and try out of emergency concepts
  • Organizing continual monitoring over “near missed” unsafe situations and on-time investigation of incidents that have already occurred
  • Ensuring that measuring and review takes place to enable continual improvement to occur

Therefore, we can see that the OH&S manager normally assumes all responsibility for the delivery of all elements of the OHSMS and its performance, which can seem strange given that the role isn’t mentioned in the ISO 45001 standard at all! However, despite this, the OH&S manager can normally be found right at the heart of an organization’s OH&S function. Ensure the OH&S manager has the set of skills listed above and understands the role that he/she has to fulfill, and you can be a good part of the way towards having the correct person guiding your company’s OH&S performance. That can surely only be good news for your company’s health and safety, and the well-being of your employees.

Why not use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to help measure the gap between your OHSMS and the ISO 45001 standard?

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.