There are numerous guidelines and standards for health and safety management systems in existence. Implementation of health and safety management systems such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has been shown to reduce occupational injuries and illnesses and their associated costs by approximately one half.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports approximately 6,000 occupational deaths and another 6,000,000 injuries and illness annually in the United States, resulting in nearly 2,800,000 lost workdays. The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index estimated that occupational accidents cost employers $40,100,000,000 in 2001. Also, it is not just in the United States. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates there are 1,200,000 occupational deaths resulting from 250,000,000 accidents and 160,000,000 illnesses worldwide each year. Realizing these numbers and costs, more employers should strongly consider implementing health and safety management systems in an effort to continuously improve their programs and save substantial money.

Health and Safety Management Systems

In addition to OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program, there are numerous other national and international guidelines and standards for occupational health and safety management systems. Systems that will be compared in this paper to identify similarities and differences include the following:

  • Voluntary Protection Program (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

  • Responsible Care (American Chemistry Council)

  • Guidelines for Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (International Labour Organization)

  • Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (British Standards Institution)

There are other guidelines and standards for health and safety management systems from sources such as Federally approved State OSHA programs, standards organizations, industry groups and private industry. However, those mentioned above are the only ones compared in Table 1. As Table 1 clearly exhibits, there are far more similarities than differences in the systems. The result is that an individual knowledgeable in evaluation of one health and safety management guideline or standard is in a position to easily learn and perform any of the others. The capabilities and experience of the individual are much more important than their familiarity with the specific guideline or standard.

Evaluation of Health and Safety Management Systems

Comparing an employer's program to any of these occupational health and safety management systems is an in depth process. It involves the objective review of documents such as policies, procedures and records. It also includes interviews with senior management, middle management, supervisors and line employees. Finally, it requires a careful survey of the facility to identify the potential hazards present and determine if they are adequately controlled. The order of these activities varies and may alternate during an individual project.

This effort is all part of comparing the employers programs and efforts to the chosen health and safety management system as a form of gap analysis. It serves to verify that the employer's written programs represent what is actually occurring in the workplace. All of this must be performed objectively and reliably, as well as be accurately documented, including opportunities for further improvement.

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