FAQs about health and safety management systems

Mar 15, 2017

lady teachingBill 70, passed in December, instantly caught the attention of Ontario's business community by enabling an accreditation process for companies with a health and safety management system. But how do you know if implementing a management system is right for your business?

To understand this issue better, WSPS eNews recently spoke with Stephen Oakley, WSPS' director, corporate accounts and management systems.

First off, what is a health and safety management system?

It's a proven system of procedures, processes and other measures that employers implement to promote continual improvement in health and safety. It helps you raise your existing health and safety program - and your business - to a new level of performance.

For workplaces that already have a health and safety program, how is a management system different?

A management system brings health and safety into your organization's strategic planning. It becomes part of the way you manage the entire business.

Here's another way of looking at it. Health and safety programs tend to be reactive, with a focus on regulatory compliance. This can lead to patchwork solutions that are owned by workers, supervisors, and health and safety people, but less so by senior management because the solutions are more tactical than strategic.

Management systems are proactive, it requires you to identify hazards, assess the risk, set targets, put processes in place to achieve the target, and measure results. All levels of the organization get involved in reducing the risk of bad things happening. Each level rolls progress reports all the way up to senior management, enabling them to make informed decisions and assign resources where they’re most needed.

Is a health and safety management system like other management systems?

Many business people are familiar with quality management systems, but fewer with health and safety management systems even though the architecture is identical and the business thinking is the same. For instance, both rely on a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach that encourages continual improvement.

So if you already have one management system, it's not a stretch to implement another?

That's right. You're predisposed to success because everybody already understands the system concepts. You just have to understand how to apply the concepts of your existing management system to a health and safety system.

I suppose the reverse would also be true: if you have a health and safety management system, it wouldn't be a stretch to implement a quality management system?

Absolutely correct. In companies that have done this, leadership team members are often the first converts because they get it. They understand the logic and ask the question, "Why don't we apply this methodology to the rest of the business?"

Would a management system work for a small business?

A health and safety management system can be implemented in any size operation. It can be scaled up or down according to size and the risks involved.

How much does a management system cost?

Businesses with a poor health and safety record are already paying high costs, not least of which is the physical and emotional toll on injured workers. To this you have to add the costs of compensation, lost productivity, retraining, financial penalties, and more. These costs are a drain on the business, whereas the costs of implementing a management system are really a long-term investment in your people and your business. Focus on the business advantages, not the costs.

Why are you personally interested in management systems?

Early on I had a chance to participate on committees that were developing standards, and it was inspirational. These days, it's the actual experience of working with organizations to help them improve. Being able to engage with senior leaders in placing health and safety on the same level as productivity, quality, environment, and corporate social responsibility, that's what gets me up and out the door every morning.

How WSPS can help

Talk to one of our Account Managers about our management systems solutions. We can help you understand health and safety management systems, how your operation would benefit from a system, and how to implement it.