Occupational health and safety management (or OHS management) means the systematic planning and implementation of measures and goals for all facets of occupational health, safety and health protection in the workplace. This is a top issue that has long since demanded high priority. After all, safety is often neglected in everyday work. It is not for nothing that the topics of occupational safety and health protection are anchored in companies by law and must be observed and implemented. Unfortunately, many companies lack an overview of how this is to be accomplished. A professional occupational health and safety management system can provide a remedy, enabling a structured approach to all health and safety issues.

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CONTENT

What does occupational health and safety mean for your organization?

In the context of Occupational health and safety management, safety at work and health protection are closely linked. Both pursue a common goal: to protect your company's employees from work-related hazards of all kinds.

This includes all influences in connection with the work activity or the workplace that can affect health. These include, for example, physical or mental stresses and strains or hazards in daily work, such as the handling of hazardous substances, noise or radiation. As a general rule, occupational health and safety management is a strategic issue and therefore the responsibility of top management.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety includes measures your organization must take to prevent accidents and work-related illnesses at work. It also includes the identification and elimination of work-related hazards. The measures are made up of four different pillars that build on each other:

Risk assessment

This basic procedure is used to identify potential hazards. From these findings, you can define and introduce appropriate protective measures according to the T-O-P system. A hazard can arise, for example, from the physical effects of machines or from inadequate instruction or qualification of the employees who operate them. According to, e.g., §5 of the German Occupational Health and Safety Act, every company must carry out a risk assessment from the outset and at regular intervals.

Instruction

Every company must instruct its employees at least once a year. A distinction must be made between initial instruction, instruction in the event of changes and repeat instruction. Initial instruction must take place when new employees join your company and should therefore be carried out before they start work.

The focus here is on safety-related topics. Repeat instructions are suitable for pointing out special or new hazards or for regularly refreshing knowledge.

"Occupational safety must not be an empty phrase. It must be an actual part of day-to-day operations."

Operating instructions

An operating instruction must be written in a comprehensible and brief form. If, for example, you inform your employees about the dangers of a machine or of certain substances, it must be possible to understand this within a short time - even by non-specialist and unskilled workers.

In Germany, for example, operating instructions are required by a variety lof laws, such as the:

  • Occupational Safety Act (ArbSchG), §9
  • Industrial Safety Ordinance (BetrSichV), §12
  • Hazardous Substances Ordinance (GefStoffV), §14 in conjunction with Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (TRGS) 555
  • Biological substances ordinance (BioStoffV), §14

 

Work equipment testing

During a work equipment inspection, your work equipment is checked for defects or malfunctions at regular intervals.

 

Occupational health protection

Occupational health protection deals with the long-term effects of work on the health of employees. The aim is to prevent the development of work-related health disorders and occupational diseases and to make the workplace as safe and healthy as possible.

Occupational health protection is implemented in practice through occupational health management (OHSMS). The aim here is to dovetail occupational safety and health protection in the company in such a way that they harmonize synergistically.

In this regard, you must keep the danger as low as possible and always combat it directly at the source. The most common duty that results from this is the risk assessment in the workplace. As far as hazard prevention is concerned, the latest state of the art in technology, occupational medicine and hygiene always applies. Current occupational science findings must always be taken into account.

"Occupational safety and health protection only work if everyone is committed to occupational safety concerns. From management to the workforce."

To ensure the best possible protection in the course of occupational health and safety management, the employer must instruct all employees in a meaningful way on how to comply with the agreed measures. Special protection is given to young people or pregnant women, for example. You may only make a distinction between the sexes if it is absolutely necessary for biological reasons.

 

Occupational safety and health protection can  only work if top management, executives and employees are also committed to occupational safety concerns. The aim is to encourage everyone involved to work in an exemplary manner and to increase self-responsibility for safe work.

 

Communication in occupational safety management

Occupational safety cannot function without communication. In order to efficiently implement and continuously improve occupational safety management, almost all company departments have a role to play. Responsibility for the system lies with top management. Managers at all levels are called upon to implement it, as are the employees themselves, who must be introduced to acting on their own responsibility. The design also involves, for example, company physicians, occupational safety specialists, management representatives, internal auditors, process managers and the works council.

In order to create the necessary basic conditions in your company, it is important:

  • For top management to support the process and act in an exemplary manner
  • To create an organizational structure in which occupational health and safety experts are involved in the evaluation of processes
  • To have a basic understanding of occupational health and safety issues
  • For investments to be made to improve occupational health and safety
  • That sufficient working time is available for this process
  • To have a serious commitment to continuous improvement

Communication is particularly important in occupational health and safety. It must be easy to understand and point out the need for technical and organizational solutions to facilitate safe working and prevent unsafe working.

Occupational health and safety management must be lived out in day-to-day operations and not just used as an empty phrase. For example, if supervisors themselves repeatedly disregard safety regulations or tolerate rule violations by employees, no amount of talk can make any difference.

Occupational health and safety management: The advantages of a structured approach

In order to guarantee and continuously improve occupational health and safety in your company, a structured approach is always recommended due to the complexity of the legal regulations. Unfortunately, many of the measures will only lead to success if your organization allows for a comprehensible evaluation, analysis, assessment and improvement of the activities.

In order to really be able to comply with all the legal regulations and ordinances and to maintain an overview, it is advisable to introduce a professional occupational health and safety management system based on a so-called occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS).

Such an occupational safety management system, for example based on the internationally recognized ISO 45001 standard, enables you to implement the prescribed occupational safety regulations effectively and systematically. At the same time, you can demonstrate that you are meeting your obligations to organize your company and workplaces in a way that is safe and healthy.

The aim of an occupational health and safety management system is also to bring the issues of occupational health and safety into line with your other corporate objectives. After all, despite the effort that is inevitably involved in introducing a systematic occupational health and safety management system, your profitability can be sustainably increased as a result.

After all, occupational illness and accidents at work result in high costs for companies. Particularly in smaller companies, this can lead to production stoppages and delayed delivery dates.

However, cost savings are by no means the only reason why occupational health and safety management is worthwhile, because:

  • You improve your operations and business processes.
  • The image of your company is enhanced.
  • Employee motivation is demonstrably increased.
  • Performance and productivity are increased.
  • You strengthen employee identification with your company.
  • Your competitiveness increases.

Just like other management systems, ISO 45001 follows the principle of the continuous improvement process (CIP). Occupational health and safety is therefore not limited to the planning and introduction of measures, but focuses on goals. They must be achieved and continuously adapted, such as sustainable health, motivation and performance.

Introducing an occupational health and safety management system

Almost all areas in the company are involved in the introduction of an occupational health and safety management system. Responsibility for the management system lies with top management,in its implementation, all the affected employees at all levels are equally challenged. If you want to introduce an occupational health and safety management system in accordance with the ISO 45001 standard, the following procedure has proven effective:

  • Define goals: You need to define occupational safety and health objectives and integrate them into the company structure and culture. To do this, it is necessary to communicate these goals to the responsible employees in order to anchor the basic principles of occupational safety and health in their minds. However, such a process will not work without management and executives "leading by example."
  • Establish organization: The German Occupational Health and Safety Act requires the establishment of an organization that consistently works to achieve occupational health and safety goals. In this context, it is the employer's duty to allocate the tasks in occupational safety management and to appoint responsible, competent persons. The assignment of duties specifies in writing what powers the individual has.
  • Occupational health and safety committee: In the implementation of occupational health and safety requirements, plant groups that work on the implementation of measures under the expert supervision of, for example, a company physician, have proven successful in practice.
  • Defining the process organization: By defining the process organization, you can implement your initiatives relatively easily in practice.
  • Measuring success: At regular intervals, review both the suitability of the measures taken and their appropriateness and effectiveness.
    - Has anything changed in your company with regard to occupational health and safety?
    - Do these changes have an impact on the health and lives of your employees?
    - Are the occupational health and safety measures provided sufficient to protect your employees from harm or do further protective measures need to be taken in the company?

Occupational health and safety management with ISO 45001 - a certified system

With ISO 45001, the international standard for occupational safety and health, occupational safety and health can be effectively integrated into everyday practice. The standard formulates all the requirements that your company must meet in terms of occupational health and safety management. At the same time, it provides you with suitable tools and measures for practical implementation.

ISO 45001 was published in March 2018 and thus completely replaced the previously used British standard BS OHSAS 18001 on September 30, 2021. It is true that many areas of the international standard were already covered by OHSAS 18001. However, there are also significant deviations or additions in some cases.

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ISO 45001:2018

Occupational health and safety management systems — Requirements with guidance for use

The standard can be purchased on the ISO website.

With ISO 45001, for example, the awarding of contracts to subcontractors and the outsourcing of services to external companies is increasingly coming into focus. This means that not only the employees of the company's own organization have to be included in occupational health and safety measures, but also external employees.

With ISO 45001 certification, you receive proof that you ensure sufficient safety in the workplace and thus fulfill your social responsibility. This is because you prove that you are doing everything possible to demonstrably minimize the risk of accidents, injuries and work-related illnesses among your employees.

Like all new management system standards, ISO 45001 is based on the High Level Structure (HLS). This gives all standards a uniform structure and similar core content. This applies, for example, to the context of the company. Furthermore, the responsibility of the top management is particularly emphasized.

Certification is only carried out by independent, accredited inspection bodies such as DQS. In the process, an independent auditor determines whether your company meets all standard requirements.

Occupational health and safety: The benefits at a glance

Like many countries, Germany already has very strict occupational health and safety laws. Nevertheless, it is advisable to implement a professional occupational health and safety management system. The structured approach that such a management system enables helps your organizations to integrate the legal requirements into internal processes. In this way, your occupational health and safety management system will benefit in many ways:

You uncover deficits in occupational health and safety: An occupational health and safety management system helps uncover and eliminate deficits. Certification serves as independent, neutral proof of the prevention of occupational accidents or safety incidents.

Strengthen the health and motivation of your employees: With a structured occupational health and safety management system, you can significantly improve your company's health. This is because physical and mental stress is reduced to a minimum, resulting in higher motivation and fewer sickness notifications.

You have greater legal certainty: Compliance also affects occupational health and safety. ISO 45001 certification enables you to better meet legal obligations and thus strengthen your legal security. This is because you reduce the liability risk and the danger of high follow-up costs.

You gain competitive advantages: By obtaining certification, you not only show that occupational health and safety is important to you, but you also thereby guarantee compliance with important standards. Especially in times of high shortage of skilled workers, this is an important plus as an employer in the race for skilled workers.

You can save costs and increase your productivity: Structured health management significantly reduces your sickness rates. Not only can you save money, but you can achieve consistent productivity with fewer business interruptions.

You improve the safety awareness of your workforce: ISO 45001 certification sensitizes your employees to health and safety issues. This is because the standard requires the active involvement of employees.

DQS: Simply leveraging Quality.

DQS is your competent partner when it comes to ISO 45001 certification. Our professional auditors accompany you with experience and competence through all phases of the certification process - including combined audits of integrated management systems. They ensure smooth audit planning, efficient audit execution, and meaningful audit reports.

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We will gladly answer your questions

How much work do you have to do to have your management system certified in accordance with the ISO 45001 standard? Find out.

You too can rely on occupational health and safety management certified by DQS and thus on a particularly effective instrument for the further development of your management system. In this way you will gain a more intensive knowledge and a deeper understanding of your organization.

Author
Altan Dayankac

DQS product manager and expert on numerous sustainability, climate, environmental and occupational safety topics. Altan Dayankac also contributes his expertise as an author and presenter on environmental and occupational health and safety committees and at numerous professional events.

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<p>DQS-Normexperte f&uuml;r Umweltmanagement und Arbeitssicherheit</p>