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 as shown in the image. Consultation is a key element of each step.
1. Top management commitment and policy
The policy is a general plan of intent which guides or influences future decisions. It is the basis upon which measurable objectives and targets and the OHSMS is developed.
Plan how to deliver the OHS policy, objectives and targets to ensure hazards arising from work activities are identified so that risks can be assessed and then controlled.
Implement the plan by developing the capabilities and support mechanisms necessary to achieve the OHS policy, objectives and targets.
4. Measurement and evaluation
Measure, monitor and evaluate OHS performance, to determine the effectiveness of risk management, and if necessary take preventative and corrective action.
5. Review and improvement
Review and continually improve the OHSMS, with the objective of improving OHS performance.
OHS professionals can help you develop an OHSMS.
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.