The Purpose of an Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OSHMS)

Table of Contents

  • Introduction ………………………………………………..3
  • The purpose of an OSHMS…………………………………3
  • Advantages and disadvantages of an OSHMS……………..5
  • Conclusion …………………………………………………8
  • References ………………………………………………….9


An occupational safety and health management system (OSHMS) plays a significant role in the functioning of the organization’s overall management system. Actually, the adoption of an OSHMS reflects the necessity to implement an integrated management approach aimed to prevent any possible occupational risks. In general, an OSHMS is based on the proper guidelines that help to successfully follow a process of organizational change that is focused on leadership and support. The major goal of top managers is to use the proper strategies directing the organization to “establish, implement and maintain an OSHMS in conformance with the standard requirements that are appropriate to the nature and scale of the organization and its occupational safety and health risks” (ANSI/AIHA Z10 Committee, 2005, p. 4). The development and implementation of an effective OSHMS ensures that work environment is safe and healthy. Moreover, an OSHMS is designed for all types of organizations, regardless of the nature of their business activities and products that are focused on demonstration of the objective evidence of implementing the best practices in today’s competitive environment. Due to effective OSHMS it is possible to improve workers’ morale, motivation and productivity, reduce injuries and diseases in the workplace and attract more and more clients.

The purpose of an OSHMS

Many experts believe “a reliable OHSMS will help build a necessary global bridge between trade, environmental protection and sustainable development” (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, 1996, p. 25). Actually, the major purpose of an OSHMS is to help organizations to control their risks and improve performance. Today many business organizations realize that technological advances and increased competition bring certain changes in working conditions, work environment and operations. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new strategies and find new solutions to apply for prevention of well-known hazards and risks and some emerging hazards, such as biological and psychosocial hazards. There are several models of occupational health and safety management systems, each of which serves one and the same purpose – to reduce hazards and risks through the proper and improve the organization’s performance. As a rule, an OHS management system can be viewed as the established framework at all organizational levels for continual OHS improvement and providing compliance with the OHS policy.

For example, today the American Society of Safety Engineers is considered to be the secretariat of the new project aimed to create newly revised ANSI ZlO-2012 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Standard, which helps organizations to develop and implement the proper OSH management. According to the experts, “from health and productivity to financial performance and business objectives, the standard hones in on principles that are applicable to any size or type of organization” (ASSE Now Secretariat of ANSI Z10-2012 Safety Management System Standard, 2012, p. 13). In general, the Standard covers a variety of OSH topics, including leadership and management, employee participation; planning processes; implementation and effective operation; evaluation and corrective action. Special attention is paid to the roles and responsibilities of employees, policy statements, assessment and prioritization, audit information and change management, risk assessment components and some other issues (ASSE Now Secretariat of ANSI Z10-2012 Safety Management System Standard, 2012).

In Australia, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems can be found in all industries. For example, OHS Reference Guide Australian Meat Industry gives a clear description of the use of an OHS management system in MLA (Meat a Livestock Australia). The major purpose of an OHS management system is to coordinate overall system to improve the OHS performance. The experts suggest that “to ensure that important occupational health and safety issues are not overlooked, employers need to adopt a systematic approach to managing health and safety” (OHS management systems, 2012). It is necessary to establish a management system that can be used to effectively solve health and safety problems within an organization. The OHS management system in MLA is generally based on AS/NZS 4804: Occupational health & safety management systems. Actually, in AS/NZS 4804, there are five elements of an OHS management system, which include:

  • management commitment and policy;
  • planning;
  • implementation (includes a variety of activities: the proper allocation of resources, integrating of OHS policies into other management systems within the organization, coordination of the OHS system components, designation of responsibilities for  implementation of the OHS plan, programs and procedures, and other activities);
  • measurement and evaluation with the aim “to establish whether the objectives of the OHSMS and its components are being met” (OHS management systems, 2012);
  • review and improvement (OHS management systems, 2012).

Advantages and disadvantages of an OSHMS

Occupational safety and health is considered to be as an essential part of any organization. Helen Lingard (2012) states that “the production of documents, including safety policies, procedures and plans, is often misconstrued as ‘doing safety’ in organizational life” (p. 130). Therefore, it is obvious that following the established principles and practices included in OSH management systems, workplace hazards will be under control within the acceptable levels of risk.

Today one can find a variety of companies that operate well in OSH. Undoubtedly, the attainment of OHS is the result of the proper development and implementation of an OHS management system. According to Makin and Winder (2008), “the benefits of using occupational health and safety management systems have been typically restricted to large scale, multi-site organizations, often from the manufacturing sector” (p. 935). This fact means that it is rather difficult to transfer these benefits to smaller business organizations because of the existing mechanics and the so-called bureaucracy of the system which is often overwhelming. According to the recent research, it is possible to ensure that an OHSMS has been properly developed and customized to individual organizations. In this case, it is necessary to use “three main control strategies that have emerged for dealing with workplace hazards namely: safe place, safe person and safe systems” (Makin & Winder, 2008, p. 936). Besides, Makin and Winder (2008) argue that any organization should determine its hazard profile to better understand the type of business operations and analyze the factors that have the strongest impact on health and safety, while  compliance auditing may “have little impact on the organization’s overall safety performance” (Makin & Winder, 2008, p. 936). The advantages of an OHS management system include:

  • the ability to organize work properly, holding employees (at all organizational levels) with OHS responsibility accountable for their decisions and actions;
  • the development of management commitment to OHS, that can be viewed as “a necessary condition for safe workplace” (Lingard, 2012, p. 150);
  • the improvement of employees’ participation in the OHS process which helps to encourage upward communication and enhance their involvement in decision making process (Lingard, 2012, p. 150);
  • the ability to improve employees’ training through the comprehensive assessment of the major organizational needs;
  • OHS management system affects the functioning of reward system that helps to reinforce the required OHS behaviors of employees, and at the same time, helps to improve their productivity and overall business performance;
  • OHS management system improves communication through consultation (the proper consultation between managers and employees helps to improve a positive health and safety organizational culture);
  • OHS management system helps to identify hazards, assess and control risks, reducing the incidence, severity and direct and indirect costs of injuries/diseases in the workplace.

However, Helen Lingard (2012) states that it is very important to understand that “the implementation of an OHS management system will only make a difference if it is accompanied by genuine commitment, will and effort to improve OHS” (p. 130). This fact means that OHS should be integrated into project decision making process. An OHS management system can be effective only if OHS is “a primary responsibility of managers at all levels within organizations, from chief executive officers to first level supervisors, foremen and team leaders” (Lingard, 2012, p. 130). The performance of an OSH management system will never meet expectations if OHS is not connected with operational management and the activities of OHS advisors seem to be irrelevant and uncoordinated.

Some other advantages of an OHS management system include:

  • meeting the so-called ‘due diligence’ requirements through implementation of a health and safety system that helps to demonstrate that managers effectively meet its legal responsibilities” (Stuckey & Lamontagne, 2005, p. 170);
  • the system can be properly audited and monitored in order to provide verification that the expectations are met, identifying and correcting any gaps in the system.
  • the system helps to reduce the cost impact on the business, avoiding workplace injuries and illnesses (Maceachen et al., 2010);
  • reduction of the incidence of workers’ compensation claims;
  • minimizing of all types of work stoppages through the effectiveness of safety disputes;
  • improvement of the workers’ morale that leads to higher levels of production;
  • improvement of the existing working practices/or methods that leads to the clients’ satisfaction (Maceachen et al., 2010).

The disadvantage of an OHS management system is that it does not guarantee 100% avoidance of injuries in the workplace because some workers remain not serious about safety in the workplace and some executives lack interest in participation (Maceachen et al., 2010).


Thus, it is necessary to conclude that occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS) are used by many organizations in the United States and across the world. Due to the development of international occupational health and safety standards and guidelines, more and more organizations have changed their management systems and become more successful on the competitive market. Many experts argue that a reliable OHSMS can help to build the appropriate global bridge between three elements: trade, environmental protection and sustainable organization’s development. In general, the major purpose of an OHS management system is to minimize and continually reduce the incidence of injuries and illnesses in the workplace and to integrate effective safe working practices into all organization’s levels. The advantages of an OHSMS discussed in this paper guarantee overall success of organization in reducing of all types of hazards in the workplace and increasing productivity.



ASSE Now Secretariat of ANSI Z10-2012 Safety Management System Standard. (2012). Professional Safety, 57(11): 13.

ANSI/AIHA Z10 Committee. (2010). American National Standard: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. AIHA.

Lingard, H. (2012). “Occupational health, safety and workers’ well-being” in Human Resource Management in Construction: Critical Perspectives, ed. by Andrew Dainty and Martin Loosemore. New York & Oxon: Routledge.

Makin, A. M. & Winder, C. (2008). “A new conceptual framework to improve the application of occupational health and safety management systems.” Safety Science, 46: 935-948.

Maceachen, E., Kosny, A., Scott-dixon, K.,  Facey, M., Chambers, L. et al. (2010). “Workplace Health Understandings and Processes in Small Businesses: A Systematic Review of the Qualitative Literature.” Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20 (2): 180-98

Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. (1996). Journal of Environmental Health, 59 (1).

OHS management systems. (2012). OHS Reference Guide Australian Meat Industry. Retrieved from:<>

Stuckey, R. & Lamontagne, A. D. (2005). “Occupational Light-vehicle Use and OHS Legislative Frameworks: An Australian Example.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health,11 (2): 167-79.

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