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Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems


Schorne Darlow, managing member at AFFSAF, discusses the importance of choosing the right OHS for your business.
Schorne Darlow Managing Member AFFSAF. Schorne Darlow Managing Member AFFSAF.

OHS is often a nightmare because of the high levels of ignorance and lack of ownership that exists in industry. When deciding on a system for OHS two critical issues need to be looked at: “legal compliance” and “OHSAS 18001/ISO 45000”. Also, whatever management system is implemented, it must ensure that “ownership” by all employees is achieved and must therefore ensure accessibility by as many employees as is possible.

Accessibility of the system is critical in terms of all employees so that full buy in is achieved in terms of health and safety documentation, this would be applicable from both maintenance and production aspects of the organisation. The system needs to be applicable to any size of organisation without any changes being made to adapt the system. This means that it will be applicable to your small contractors through to your major organisations employing thousands of people.

Many OHS systems manage certain aspects of health and safety but not the entire basket. Common aspects addressed include “risk assessment” and “incident management” but fail to address anything else. Many organisations fall into this trap and care must be taken to ensure that this is avoided. Ensure that whatever system is decided upon, it goes the entire route in addressing all health and safety issues that the organisation must adhere to.

Documentation control in terms of OHS is critical and also needs to be fully accessible to all employees at all times. This should also be applicable in terms of contractor control where documentation can be made accessible to any client to ensure that the management of contractors is effective. Whatever system is implemented must be able to ensure this.

On making an interpretation of the Construction Regulations around a “safety plan”, it is clear that such plan is merely a simplified safety management system and therefore the management system as envisaged in this article can well be a full management system as being discussed. Also the system filing facility can easily be deemed the “safety file” as contemplated in the Construction Regulations.

Note that any safety system must have a structured filing system in place to ensure that all occupational health and safety documentation is stored and accessible to all from one point.

Where an organisation implements a formal system it needs to ensure that the organisation together with its CEO are seen to have acted reasonably in terms their management of OHS. This is the primary reason why, before implementing any OHS system the client needs to ensure that as a minimum legal compliance to the OHS Act and Regulations can be easily achieved. Where necessary it may be appropriate to require the system being carefully assessed prior to purchase to ensure that the levels of addressing the legal requirements is high. It is essential that the system must be able to ensure that the organisation can achieve a legal compliance result of above 96% as a minimum. This same concept should be applicable in terms of OHSAS 18001.

It is for this reason that the management system must address everything required to be in place such as the following:

  • Appointments;
  • Checklists;
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Management;
  • Equipment Inventory;
  • Safety Committee Agenda and Minutes;
  • Risk Assessment/SWP/PTO’s;
  • Incident Management;
  • Registers; and
  • Most importantly “Action Management”.

One of the major shortfalls in terms of OHS management is the failure to address effectively identified hazards and shortfalls and these issues often slip through the net. For a system to be effective in this regard the system must be able to immediately identify shortfalls as they are noted and then facilitate the management of those shortfalls. It is important that this is an automatic process independent of user input. This is essential to ensure that both aspects of the reasonable person test in OHS are addressed, that being the identification of the relevant hazards and then the management of these identified hazards. The level of automation included into the system needs to be high and should limit as far as is reasonable, extra input from individuals, in terms of the identification and management of OHS action.

Finally, it is important to note that a system must work for YOU and not the other way round and must close the loop in respect to OHS. In other words from the identification of shortfalls to addressing these shortfalls, the OHS system must be effective. It needs to be understood that a system working for you will still require inputs, but the more persons involved in the system, the more can be drawn from the system to the benefit of all.

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