Support Mechanisms for the Health and Safety Systems
ISO 45001:2018 Clause 7 focuses on supporting an effective occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) via the provision of adequate resources, competent personnel, awareness of OH&S risks, good communication, and documented information.
Resources to implement, maintain, and improve your OHSMS need to be determined, and then provided. Work out how exactly you intend to supply these resources. This does not come without a cost. Building and improving an OHSMS takes time and effort and will require a budget that is sanctioned by top management. Work out the shape of the resources you need. This can take the form of human resource for instance. Perhaps additional staffing, competence and consultancy will be needed. There might be a need for upgrades of work equipment, safety equipment, and information software. You will need to identify the financial costs of these resources and then source them.
A significant resource involves training workers to ensure their competence in the roles that are asked of them. There is an overarching requirement for everyone in the organisation to have OH&S competence proportionate to their role. This will require evaluation of current standards of competence and an assessment of additional training required to help embed the new OHSMS. And this is at all levels in the organisation. The 45001 standard holistically places workers at the heart of risk identification and makes them active participants. So worker competence should be developed by providing training, coaching, or mentoring, by reassigning employees where necessary and perhaps by hiring new talent. Also, competence criteria should be included in a review of contractor selection, and outsourcing arrangements.
The support clause also requires a general awareness of occupational health and safety (OH&S) risks throughout the various functions and levels of the organisation. Develop a mechanism to inform employees and contractors about workplace safety, hazards, and risks. This requires a decision on what media to use, when to do so, and to whom. The provision of information is different to ‘worker participation’ and to consultation, but there is a synergy between them . Be mindful of diversity (e.g. gender, language, culture, literacy, disability) when considering communication methods and make sure information is consistent, reliable, and documented.
In addition to regular employees, temporary workers, contractors, and visitors should be aware of the OH&S risks to which they are exposed. Communicate relevant information to workers, ensure communication is received, and assess whether it is effective. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are workers competent to identify occupational hazards and are they made aware of hazards, OH&S risks and actions that are relevant to them?
- Are they aware of their contribution to the effectiveness of the OHSMS?
- Are workers made aware of incidents and the outcomes of investigations that are relevant to them?
- Are they aware that they can remove themselves from serious and imminent danger?
In deciding the adequacy of your communication processes look to your defined ‘interested parties’, because these will be both internal and external to the organisation.
Determine what information needs to be documented. Clause 7 requires that documented information must be available and suitable for use. It can be in any format or media and can come from any source, but it must be adequately protected from loss of confidentiality, improper use, or loss of integrity/legibility. It needs to be easily identifiable, so it will require version control, dated and with author or reference number.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and data automation can move the process of OH&S documentation from a manual one to real-time data capture, gathered automatically and avoiding errors. Make use of this where you can.
Resources, competence, awareness, communication, documentation; these are the support mechanisms to drive your occupational health and safety management system forward.