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Workplace Safety and Health Management Systems Reduce Injuries and Illness

safety health management systemsHaving an effective safety and health management system (SHMS) can help reduce work-related illnesses and injuries and save injury-related costs for businesses. It is estimated that injuries and illnesses cost U.S. businesses approximately $170 billion a year. An SHMS will help a business go beyond just complying with laws to anticipating and preventing any possible risks in the workplace.

The key elements in creating an effective SHMS include:

• management commitment and employee involvement

• worksite analysis

• hazard prevention and control

• training for employees, supervisors, and managers

Steps to encourage management commitment and employee involvement include creating a clearly stated policy on safe and healthy working conditions; a clear goal and objectives for meeting that goal; top management involved in implementing the system; employee involvement in decisions that affect they health and safety; assigning responsibilities to everyone in the organization for the management system, including managers, supervisors and employees; and annual reviews of the system to evaluate is effectiveness and deficiencies.

To complete a worksite analysis it is necessary to identify all hazards by conducting initial worksite surveys as well as periodic follow-up surveys; analyze the hazards of particular jobs or processes; inspect the site regularly; a system for employees to notify management of hazardous conditions without reprisal; determine causes of any accidents or incidents to enable prevention strategies; and analysis of patterns and problems over an extended period of time.

For hazard prevention and control OSHA recommends using engineering controls; administrative controls such as adjusting work schedules to minimize exposure to hazards; work practice controls; and personal protective equipment. Also recommended is preparing for emergencies by conducting drills and providing training; and creating a medical program that includes first aid and emergency medical care.

Safety and health training should ensure that all employees, including contract workers, understand the hazards they may encounter on the job and how to deal with them safely; ensure that supervisors understand what their responsibilities are and why they are important to effective safety practices; and provide periodic refresher training to employees.

Resources from OSHA in creating a SHMS include:

• Small Business Handbook – http://www.osha.gov/Publications/smallbusiness/small-business.html

• Compliance Assistance Quick Start – http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/quickstarts/index.html

• Hazard Awareness Advisor – http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/oshasoft/hazexp.html

• Safety & Health Management Systems eTool – http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/safetyhealth/index.html


Also available to assist businesses in creating a SHMS are Compliance Assistance Specialists and OSHA On-site Consultations.