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Focus: Health and Safety – Prevention of Injury and Ill Health[1]

Top management recognizes the priority of occupational health and safety management as an integral part of its business success. It leads by establishing vision, policy, objectives, programs, and practices to ensure its commitment to prevention of injury and ill health by controlling its risks and improving its OH&S performance.

Senior management and the board set the leadership for a safe and healthy workplace within the organization by making a commitment to prevention of injury and ill health in its policies, ensuring the identification of risks of its processes, materials, equipment, and activities and putting in place objectives contributing to the safety and health.

Management has a responsibility to eliminate or minimize risks to personnel and other interested parties who could be exposed to hazards associated with its activities. Management can lead by sharing its vision and commitment to building an incident and injury-free work environment and integrating health and safety with other roles and responsibilities. By communicating continuously the established limits it puts on risk taking and the value of safety during meetings and training, and in posters, and involving employees during design, implementation, and corrective actions, the organization will make health and safety performance transparent throughout the organization for all key stakeholders.

To reinforce a strong health and safety culture within the organization, employee involvement is crucial. Employees are empowered to challenge unsafe acts and continually work to improve occupational health and safety programs and performance. Workers have the right to work in a safe and healthy working environment and have the right to refuse work if it is unsafe.

Workers give input to operational controls they are working in. Top management sets its policy statement by considering the following:

1. Who is the health and safety management system directed toward? a. An organization needs to take into consideration present employees, new and young workers, temporary workers, contractors, people with disabilities, visitors, maintenance workers, the public, etc.

2. What risks does the health and safety management work toward?

a. Identify your significant occupational health and safety (OH&S) hazards by doing a risk assessment, commit to prevention of injury and ill health, and continually improve OH&S management system and performance. The use of competent expert advice may be required for risk assessment.

b. The legal emphasis has been on worker's right to:

i. Know hazards and risks

ii. Participate in health and safety activities and worker- management committees

iii. Refuse hazardous work

3. What controls are in place for operations?

a. Determine controls or changes to existing controls. Review design of work areas, processes, installations, and procedures.

b. The following hierarchy is outlined by OHSAS 18001:

i. elimination

ii. substitution

iii. engineering controls

iv. signs/warnings and/or administrative controls

v. personal protective equipment

c. Innovation: Workers are encouraged to be creative in coming up with solutions to health and safety.

The board of directors, as mentioned earlier, should be aware of the risks tied to the operational controls of business operations. This would include acceptable risks tied to its legal obligations and its own OH&S policy.

The company's occupational health and safety policy sets out the company's commitment to prevention of injury and ill health and continual improvement in its management and performance. The policy needs to be communicated to persons working under the control of the organization with the intent that they are made aware of the health and safety commitments by all.

The policy statement needs to be reviewed periodically (usually yearly) to ensure that it remains relevant to the organization.

Objectives and programs need to be tied to the identified hazards and risks at the organization, prioritizing and controlling them through operational controls.

Actions must be taken within the organization to minimize consequences of occupational hazards, and information is vital for dissemination of information on effective programs and policies related to identified hazards. Surveillance of the workplace and identification of hazards through a risk assessment are the first step, and then internal controls help the organization make informed decisions about the level of risk that it wants to take. Monitoring procedures and compliance requirements through inspections and audits assists the organization in managing effectively and efficiently.

Training is key for top management to provide, as workers need to know not only about their work responsibilities but also about the hazards and how to protect themselves and their coworkers.

  • [1] The following quotes on principles are from Pilot Performance Resources Management Inc.'s speaking series on “Driving Business Sustainability,” helping companies maintain and succeed in their business in all markets through all circumstances.
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