Health and safety management systems

words: Simon Bloxham, Safety for Business
Simon Bloxham

A workplace health and safety management system is a set of policies, procedures and plans that systematically manage health and safety at work and can help to minimise the risk of injury and illness from workplace operations.

Health and safety management systems should be the mainstay of a business. Not only will they keep employees and anyone interacting with you safe, they make it easy for everyone in a business to try and improve it.

Putting a system in place can make work activities safer, protecting both employees and your business.

Certain factors will inevitably arise when discussing health and safety management systems. These include managing risk assessments and safety training.

Developing and implementing risk management helps everyone. If everyone understands risks and hazards in the workplace, accidents and incidents can be reduced.

To implement these measures, you can enlist senior managers to be safety representatives or even organise a safety committee. These evaluations protect employees and everyone within a work environment.

Why are health and safety management systems important?

The reasons are summed up in three words – moral, legal and financial.

Keeping people safe at work is everyone’s responsibility and there are significant fines and jail time for those that don’t take that responsibility seriously enough.

What are the phases of a health and safety management system?

In order to cover what an effective system is, you must first understand how a system should fundamentally function. Should it focus on risk prevention or encouraging feedback? Who is in charge of effectively managing it?

There are four phases to a health and safety management system, including the general principles of effective safety management.

Phase 1 – Make a plan

Establish the policy for your organisation. Set a clear direction that you want your business to follow. Ensure you share it with all levels of your business so that everyone understands health and safety in your workplace.

Make sure the policy is suitable for your situation. Remember it is yours; all you need to do is follow the guidance available from the HSE and many other forums. Let your people know about it and about any changes that you make going forward.

Phase 2 – Just do it

The plan should detail how you are going to manage your risks. You need to know what these are initially, so there’s a bit of work to do upfront to determine the priorities and what you are going to do to mitigate their effects. Check what could cause harm in the workplace, how it could cause the harm and how to manage it effectively so it never sees the light of day. As mentioned previously, you will need to converse with employees and tell them what you have discovered and what you are doing about it. Allow them to come back to you with their thoughts. They will have some good ideas and you will find that health and safety is accepted more readily if you act on their feedback.

You will need to consider training. If you aren’t doing it, then now is a good time to start. If you are doing it, make a check on whether you are doing enough.

Phase 3 – Take time to check

Make sure you look at how you are doing. Has the plan worked? Have accidents gone up or down? Do staff act appropriately and safely? If you can’t see much or enough of a difference, review what you implemented, as there really should be better standards at work. One thing to look at is the reporting of near miss incidents. Try to encourage the practice.

Phase 4 – Act

Adapt to what you find from the checking stage. You might need to adapt working practices or conduct more training or risk assessments.

When you do this system remember a few things:

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Everyone must understand it so avoid the baffling jargon and buzz words. That’s how I write these articles (hopefully I do anyway).

Review, Review and erm… oh yes, Check! Keep it at the heart of what you do.

Reporting Needs to be Easy – Think about what stops someone telling you about an issue and make sure these excuses can be got round. That near miss form can be as easy as asking for the date and time it nearly happened, what happened and asking if there is anything they think could be done about it.

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