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Where does health & safety management fit into your organization?

Many modern organizations rightly value employee safety and well-being. Generally, this is reflected in the establishment and operation of an OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System), often certified to OHSAS 18001. Along with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 is one of the most commonly applied business standards across all modern business sectors. So, given that OHSAS 18001 and OH&S (operational health and safety) are so critical to so many businesses, where do they fit within your organization?

OHSAS 18001 – Why do organizations comply?

There are many good reasons why organizations comply with OHSAS 18001, some of which we examined in our article 4 key benefits of OHSAS 18001 for your business, but the main business reasons can broadly be explained as follows:

  • Compliance with regulations: Many organizations cannot bid for contracts without providing evidence of due diligence in terms of health and safety, and there is no more effective way of proving this by demonstrating that you have an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS. Likewise, in many sectors, heavy fines can be applied to organizations that have accidents and cannot prove certification to a standard such as OHSAS 18001. This happened recently, with the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom applying financial penalties to organizations whose bad practices have led to fatal accidents, and whose compliance with OHSAS 18001 has proved to be false.
  • Customer and stakeholder pressure: When your organization is contracted by a larger company, it is normal that the large company has criteria that need to be met, and it is likely that OHSAS 18001 compliance or certification is one, while many multinational corporations have their own internal OH&S systems. It is also common for stakeholders or potential investors to insist on formal certifications before making a financial commitment to a company.
  • Staff well-being and related financial benefits: Good OH&S performance normally brings multiple advantages to your day-to-day business: higher morale, lower staff turnover (which means lower hiring and re-training costs), and the financial benefits that OHSAS 18001 process improvements can bring.

So, given that these are the most common reasons that many companies seek OHSAS 18001 certification, where does OH&S management fit within your organization?

OH&S management: Where does it fit?

Attitudes regarding OH&S can differ greatly from one organization to another, mainly depending on what sector the organization in question operates in. As such, how this topic fits into the day-to-day activities of your organization, and where it ranks in terms of importance, can be assessed by the following elements:

  • What is your accident record? Ultimately, the effectiveness of your OH&SMS can best be measured by the accidents or incidents in the workplace. If your organization has a record of recording accidents, but not addressing root cause to prevent reoccurrence, it can reasonably be assumed that OH&S matters are not as important to your organization as they should be.
  • How does your organization address risk? Assessment of risk is a vital part of maintaining a safe workplace, and you can estimate how seriously OH&S matters are held within your organization by studying how it addresses risk. Are risk assessments completed regularly? Is employee involvement sought? Are results and findings shared and made known to the workforce? You can learn more in the article How to perform risk assessment in OHSAS 18001.
  • Competence and awareness: These elements are strongly related to both risk and the frequency of accidents. Without the training and knowledge transfer that bring increased competence and awareness, your workforce cannot truly be equipped to help your OH&SMS perform consistently well. An organization with employee well-being at the center of its strategic vision will ensure that employees are equipped with the correct knowledge to help deliver this. If this element is not present in your organization, then this is a cause for concern. The article How to perform training and awareness in OHSAS 18001 can help provide information on this.
  • Level of leadership and communication: Do your leaders communicate to the team regularly and lead by example? A successful OH&SMS needs good communication channels, and leaders who communicate effectively can be a huge positive to employee morale and overall OH&SMS performance. You can learn more about this element in the article How to comply with OHSAS 18001 communication requirements.

Making your OH&SMS central to your company performance

It will quickly become clear if your organization is or is not committed to OH&SMS performance and employee well-being. Given the cost of accidents, both financial and reputational, the potential fines for not complying with legislation, the reputational damage, and the lack of morale that poor OH&SMS performance brings, it is critical that OH&S performance is aligned with the strategic aims of the business itself. When these elements are present, then you can truly say that OH&S management is at the heart of your organization.

Use this free  Gap Analysis Tool to assess health and safety management inside your organization.

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.