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

CONTENTS

  • What does occupational health and safety mean for your organization?
  • Occupational health and safety legislation
  • Occupational safety and health requires communication
  • Occupational health and safety management: The advantages of a structured approach
  • Introducing an occupational health and safety management system
  • ISO 45001 - a certified system 
  • Health and safety management: The advantages at a glance
  • DQS - How we can support you

 

WHAT DOES OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MEAN FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

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

This includes all influences in connection with the work activity or the workplace that can impair 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 MANAGEMENT

Occupational health and safety includes measures that 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 possible 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 §5 of the 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-relevant topics. Repeat training is suitable for pointing out special or new dangers or for regularly refreshing knowledge.

Occupational safety must not be an empty phrase. It must also be lived out in day-to-day operations.

OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS

Operating instructions 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 period of time - even by non-specialist and unskilled workers.

Most countries have laws and regulations that require these operating instructions. 

EQUIPMENT INSPECTION

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

WORKPLACE HEALTH PROTECTION

Workplace health protection deals with the long-term effects of work on the health of employees. The aim is to prevent the development of occupational health disorders and occupational diseases and to design the workplace in the best possible and safest way.

In some countries, companies have a legal obligation to ensure that measures are in place to maintain and improve health protection and ensure the physical and mental health of employees. Employees and employers benefit equally from these legal requirements. After all, good working conditions increase the mental and physical well-being as well as the motivation and work performance of employees.

Workplace health protection is implemented in practice in Workplace Health Management Systems (WHMS). The aim here is to dovetail occupational safety and health protection in the company in such a way that they harmonize with and profit from each other.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT - LEGAL FOUNDATIONS

IMPORTANT REGULATIONS OF THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT

The German Occupational Health and Safety Act (ArbSchG) regulates all matters and basic obligations necessary for the protection of employees in your company. These include, among other things, the design of work and premises and the observance of working hours. The law also prescribes a "humane design" of work as well as the prevention of accidents and work-related health hazards.

In this respect, you must keep the danger to a minimum and always tackle it directly at source. The most common duty that results from this is the workplace risk assessment. 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 stands up for the interests of occupational safety. From the 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 sensible manner 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 HEALTH AND SAFETY REGULATIONS, ORDERS, OTHER LAWS

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, there are in turn a whole series of Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Orders as well as other laws, for example:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance (89/654/EEC): basic requirements for the installation and operation of workplaces, for the protection of non-smokers or for the furnishing of work or sanitary rooms and also other rooms.
  • Display Screen Equipment Ordinance (89/655/EEC): requirements for the installation of a display screen workstation
  • Load Handling Regulation (90/269/EEC): Requirements for the minimisation of health hazards such as back disorders during the manual handling of loads.

All these laws and regulations have one thing in common: they serve to protect the health of workers. However, it is not only the employer who has a duty to comply with the regulations, but also the employees. For example, every employee has a duty of care to his or her colleagues and must use machines, equipment, materials, etc. only as intended.

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

COMMUNICATION IN OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY MANAGEMENT

Occupational safety and health cannot function without communication. In order to efficiently implement and continuously improve an occupational health and safety management system, almost all areas of the company 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. Company doctors, occupational safety specialists, management representatives, internal auditors, process managers and the works council, if and where available, are also involved in the design.

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY RELIES ON COMMUNICATION

Exciting topic? More expert knowledge in our free White Paper. From the content:

  • References in the standard
  • Suitable processes
  • Communication in emergency situations
  • Compliance with legal requirements

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

  • That top management supports the process and acts in an exemplary manner
  • To create an organizational structure in which OHS experts are involved in the evaluation of processes
  • That there is a basic understanding of occupational health and safety issues
  • That investments are 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 safety and health. 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 safety and health management must be practiced 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 talking can make any difference.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT:

THE BENEFITS 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 organisation allows for a comprehensible evaluation, analysis, assessment and improvement of the activities.

In order to be able to really 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 health and safety management system, for example based on the internationally recognised ISO 45001 standard, enables you to implement the prescribed occupational health and safety regulations effectively and systematically. At the same time, you can prove 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. Despite the effort that is inevitably associated with the introduction of 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. Especially in smaller companies, this can lead to production losses and delayed delivery dates.

However, cost savings are by far not the only reason why occupational health and safety management is worthwhile, because:

  • You improve your operational procedures and business processes.
  • The image of your company is enhanced.
  • Employee motivation is demonstrably increased.
  • Performance and productivity are increased.
  • You strengthen the identification of your employees 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 SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Almost all areas in the company are involved in the introduction of an occupational health and safety management system. The responsibility for the management system lies with the top management, in the implementation all affected employees on 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 successful:

  • 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 objectives 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 leaders "leading by example".
  • Establish organization: The Occupational Health and Safety Act, for example, 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 which powers the individual has.

SUCCESSFULLY INTRODUCING ISO 45001

You would like to introduce a management system for safety and health at work according to ISO 45001? We will tell you the most important success factors.

  • Occupational health and safety committee: When implementing occupational health and safety requirements, groups that work on the implementation of measures under expert supervision - for example, that of a company physician - have proven themselves 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.
    - Have there been any changes in your company with regard to occupational health and safety?
    - Do these changes affect the health and lives of your employees?
    - Are the 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 health and safety, workplace health and safety 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 completely replaced the previously used British standard BS OHSAS 18001 on 30 September 2021. It is true that many areas of the international standard were already covered by OHSAS 18001. However, in some cases there are also significant deviations or additions.

ISO 45001:2018-06 –

Management systems for safety and health at work - Requirements with instructions for application. 

The standard can be ordered via 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 your own organization must be integrated into the measures for occupational health and safety, but also external employees.

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

Like all new management system standards, ISO 45001 is based on the so-called 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 top management is particularly emphasized.

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

HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK: THE ADVANTAGES AT A GLANCE

Most countries already have 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 organization to integrate the legal requirements into its internal processes. In this way, your occupational health and safety management system has many advantages:

You uncover deficits in occupational health and safety: An occupational health and safety management system helps to 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, which leads to higher motivation and fewer work days lost on account of sickness.

You have greater legal certainty: Compliance also applies to health and safety. ISO 45001 certification enables you to better meet legal obligations and thus strengthen your legal security. Because you reduce the liability risk and the danger of high consequential costs.

ISO 45001 – WORK SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE

Read more in our free White Paper. Some contents:

  • Compliance: Focus on relevant topics
  • What to do in case of non-compliance?
  • Seven steps to implement ISO 45001

You gain competitive advantage: Through certification, you not only show that occupational health and safety is important to you, but by doing so, you also 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 will you save money, but you'll 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. Because the standard requires the active involvement of employees.

DQS - HOW WE CAN SUPPORT YOU IN OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

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

WE'LL BE HAPPY TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

What effort do you have to expect in order to have your management system certified according to ISO 45001? Find out more.

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
Dr. Thijs Willaert

Dr. Thijs Willaert is Head of Marketing & Communications for the Sustainability and Food Safety segments. He is also an auditor for the external audit of sustainability reports. His areas of interest include sustainability management, sustainable procurement, and the digitalization of the audit landscape.

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