Safety and health principles are universal, but how much action is needed will depend on the size of the organization, the hazards presented by its activities, the physical characteristics of the organization, products or services, and the capability of its existing arrangements.
Many of the features of effective safety and health management are related to the sound management practices advocated by proponents of quality management, environmental protection, and business excellence. Commercially successful companies often excel at safety and health management as well, precisely because they apply the same efficient business expertise to safety and health as to all other aspects of their operations.
Responsibility for safety and health management finally rests with the employer. This responsibility is normally delegated to executive directors, senior managers, line managers, supervisors, and employees. Each person’s authority and duties should be clearly defined, documented and communicated to them. The organizational and reporting structure for implementing these duties should be illustrated in an in-house organizational chart.
In addition, each director on the organization’s board needs to accept their responsibilities in providing safety and health commitment and leadership by:
- Ensuring that each member’s actions and decisions at board level always strengthen the message in the organization’s safety statement.
- Preventing a mismatch between individual board members attitudes, behavior or decisions and the organization’s safety statement so as not to undermine workers belief in preserving good safety and health standards.
Accidents, ill-health, and incidents are rarely random events. They generally arise from failures of control and involve multiple related elements. The immediate cause may be a human or technical failure, but such events usually arise from organizational failings which are the responsibility of management. Successful safety and health management systems aim to utilize the strengths of managers and other employees. The organization needs to understand how human factors affect safety and health performance.
Senior executive directors or other senior management controlling body members and executive senior managers are mainly responsible for safety and health management in the organization. These people need to ensure that all their decisions reflect their safety and health objectives, as articulated in the Safety Statement which should cover:
The appointment of someone at senior management level with executive responsibility, accountability and authority for the development, implementation, periodic review, and evaluation of their safety and health management system.
The safety and health ramifications of investment in new plant, premises, processes or products. For example such changes could introduce:
- New materials: are they toxic or flammable, do they pose new risks to employees, neighbors or the public, and how will any new risks be controlled?
- New work practices: what are the new risks, and are managers and supervisors competent to induct workers in the new practices?
- New people: do they need safety and health training and are they sufficiently competent to do the job safely?
- Only engaging contractors to do new or ongoing projects that reinforce rather than damage the organization’s safety and health policies.
- Recognizing their continuing responsibility for safety and health even when work is contracted out.
- Providing their customers with the necessary safety and health precautions when supplying them with articles, substances, or services.
- Being aware that although safety and health responsibilities can and should be delegated, legal responsibility for safety and health still rests with the employer.
Preparing safety and health policies and consulting employees, including the safety committee where it exists, and the Safety Representative, as appropriate.
- Developing safety and health strategies for key high risks.
- Setting safety and health objectives and targets for employees.
- Devising plans to implement the safety and health policy.
- Ensuring that proper organizational structures are in place.
- Identifying and allocating resources for safety and health.
- Ensuring that the safety and health policy is effectively implemented, and checking whether objectives and targets have been met.
- Reviewing the effectiveness of the safety and health management system.
- Implementing any necessary improvements derived from carrying out risk assessments.
- Giving all personnel the authority necessary to carry out individual safety and health responsibilities.
- Devising appropriate arrangements whereby employees are held accountable for discharging their responsibilities.
- Establishing clear and unambiguous reporting relationships.
- Devising job descriptions that include safety and health responsibilities.
- Incorporating safety and health performance in the appraisal system where personal appraisal systems exist.
- Developing safety and health cultures in project teams and team working situations.
Managers and supervisors have direct obligation for the safety and health of employees and activities under their control. Individual employees have responsibilities for ensuring their own safety as defined by the 2005 Act and other relevant safety and health legislation. These responsibilities should be clearly assigned and communicated to the various duty holders. Individual responsibilities should be stated in the organization’s Safety Statement. They may include providing supervision and carrying out risk assessments.