Occupational health and safety management systems

Occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMSs) help organisations to continually improve their health and safety performance.


What is an OHMS?

An OHSMS is a coordinated and systematic approach to managing health and safety risks. OHSMSs help organisations to continually improve their safety performance and compliance to health and safety legislation and standards. In doing so, they establish safer working environments that protect people at work by eliminating, or better managing, health and safety hazards.

  • helping create safer work environments
  • reducing injuries and injury-related costs – by pre-empting injuries, employers save money on medical expenses, the injured employee's wages, insurance claim excesses, replacement labour and increased workers' compensation insurance premiums
  • improving business opportunities – many companies have preferential purchasing policies that favour purchasing products or services from companies with an OHSMS
  • providing measurable systems that can verify OHS performance
  • demonstrating that the organisation is meeting legal requirements
  • enhancing the organisation's reputation.

Research shows that there are clear links between good OHS management systems and long-term business efficiency.

Features of an effective OHSMS

  • have top management commitment to managing OHS risk – top management must demonstrate OHS leadership and promote the involvement of staff in the development and implementation of the OHSMS
  • be supported by the organisation's overall management system – the organisation must provide corporate commitment and sufficient resources
  • make the OHSMS's structures and processes visible to employees and relevant to all business activities all the time
  • ensure that OHSMSs are regularly updated because OHS risks can increase at busy times, or when changes are occurring (for example, during restructures, changes of products and services or changes of suppliers). The OHSMS needs to adjust to, and be appropriate for all circumstances

5 steps of an OHSMS

There are 5 steps to an effective OHSMS, and these steps form a continual cycle of improvement. Consultation is a key element of each step.

OHSMS audit tools

Once the OHSMS is in place it is important to regularly audit the system to determine whether it is operating as expected.