Why Is Managing Safety and Health a Needed Entity?

The following principles illustrate why safety and health needs to be managed:

  • 1. An unsafe act, an unsafe condition, and an accident or incident are all indicators or symptoms of something wrong in the management system. Many factors contribute to an accident or incident, so it is imperative that all contributing factors are considered in order to determine their underlying causes.
  • 2. We can predict that certain sets of circumstances have the potential to produces severe injuries. These circumstances can be identified and controlled. Thus, it is possible to predict severity when certain conditions exist. This will allow for resources to be directed toward the more frequently occurring accidents/incidents that are the riskiest or most severe versus the less severe or less frequently occurring types of accidents.

History has shown that situations that involve more severe or catastrophic injuries/incidents are reasonably predictable, for example,

a. Unusual, nonroutine work

b. Nonproduction activities such as maintenance

c. Sources of high energy

d. Certain construction situations such as steel erection, tunneling, working over water, or handling explosives

e. Lifting or material-handling tasks

f. Repetitive motion situations

g. Psychological stress situations

h. Occupations with dangerous exposures to hazards

i. Exposure to toxic materials

  • 3. Safety should be managed like any other company function. Management should direct the safety and health effort by setting achievable goals using management tools such as planning, organizing, and controlling techniques to facilitate their accomplishment. Safety and health must be a functional element of management.
  • 4. The key to effective line safety and health performance is the use of management procedures that fix accountability and hold accountable those responsible for safety and health as a key element of their job performance.

Any line manager will usually achieve results in those areas where they are being measured by management. In most all cases, someone who is held accountable will take responsibility. Accountability fosters responsibility while the lack of accountability results in failure to be responsible.

5. The function of safety and health is to locate and define the operational errors that allow accidents/incidents to occur. The detection of such errors helps by asking why certain accidents/incidents happen. This is often defined as searching for the root causes. This entails that the safety and health professional must look beyond direct causes (release of energy) and indirect causes such as acts or conditions to basic causes, which entails management policies and procedures, personal practices or factors, and environmental factors.

By ascertaining whether certain known effective controls are being utilized, the symptom (act, condition, accident, or incident) can be traced back to see why it was allowed to occur. Looking at the company's system (procedures) and asking whether certain things are done in a predetermined manner that is known to be successful.

Some questions that can be asked as to why (or why not) certain known effective controls are being utilized are as follows:

a. What is management safety and health policy?

b. How is the company organized?

c. What is the function of the safety and health department?

d. What is safety and health's niche in the organization?

e. What are the relationships between the production and line staff?

6. The cause of unsafe or risky behavior can be identified and classified, which provides logical reasons as to why individuals react the way that they do. At times, employees are placed in overload situations that require them to experience heavier workload beyond not only their physical abilities but also their mental capacities. These are bona fide stressors.

Other times, workers feel trapped and make mistakes because the assigned task or situation is beyond their skill level, again both physically and mentally; also, the lack of training and experience with the task come into play. The pressure to accomplish the assigned task to save face and their job results in the potential for error.

A less understood reason why workers become victims of an accident/incident is their own decision to commit an error because work must get done, which involves a degree of logic in choosing the unsafe act. After all, the belief is that accidents/incidents happen to other people. This type of motivation makes a lot more sense to the workers' current mental thought process. It causes them to make the decision to operate unsafely. It is a mental decision based on their perception of reality and their mental condition at that moment.

Management's task with respect to safety and health is to identify and deal with the causes of unsafe behaviors, their cause, effect, and prevention, and not the behavior itself.

  • 7. In most cases, unsafe behavior is normal behavior; it is the result of normal people reacting to the environment of the workplace. Management's responsibility is to change the environment that has led to the unsafe behavior. In most cases, unsafe behavior is the result of an environment that has been constructed or designed by management.
  • 8. There are three major subsystems that must be dealt with in building an effective safety and health system. They are as follows:

a. The physical

b. The managerial

c. The behavioral

This entails the analysis of issues, the development of systems of control, and communicating those systems to the line organization and monitoring the results achieved.

9. The safety and health system should fit the culture of the organization. The way to manage safety and health must be consistent with existing culture and must be flexible enough to change to be consistent with other functions within the


10. There is no one right or correct way to achieve safety and health in a company or business; however, for a safety and health system to be effective, it must meet certain criteria. These criteria are as follows:

a. Force supervisory performance

b. Involve middle management

c. Have top management visibly showing their commitment

d. Have employee participation

e. Be flexible

f. Be perceived as positive

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