First and foremost, management is responsible for defining the scope and purpose of the safety management system by developing guidelines and designing measurable objectives that fit the organization.

A good safety management system requires the appropriate support and behaviors of the entire organization, not a limited few. Top management commitment (most important) must filter down to each employee. While commitment starts with top management, it is necessary to integrate employee participation into the management system and all elements of the safety process. However, as a business grows and the numbers of employees increase, being responsible for all of the details of an effective safety management system may become less feasible for a few individuals. Therefore, it is important to understand how to develop a management system for delegating the safety responsibilities to others. 2, 3

As roles and responsibilities are defined, the focus should shift on how to develop management commitment that can be used to help achieve stated safety objectives. However, one must understand that management commitment is only one element of a successful safety system. In an effort to further understand management commitment, one needs to accomplish the following task:

  • Review the existing organizational structure and understand how it influences the operation

  • Determine what part each position will play in the management system and what level of responsibilities needs to be assigned for each position

  • Determine the level of authority that each selected position will play and what resources will be needed2, 3

  • Divide the responsibilities evenly among managers, supervisors, and employees

  • Establish and define a charter for safety committees to state the purpose of their activities.6

With all of that said, sometimes you may many hear comments from many front line managers about being assigned the responsibility for safety: "It is not my job." "It is the safety professional's job." However, just as any part of business, management must consider what they will expect from individuals in the organization. This paper will provide some practical ways to develop roles and responsibilities.

The Management System

In the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses five elements to define a successful management system. Although management and employee participation is complementary and form the core of an effective safety process, one must understand that there is still a clear and distinct difference between management of the operation and employee participation. 2

Based on VPP, the following outlines the key management elements that are a common theme in all successful safety systems:

  • Management leadership and Employee participation

  • Hazard identification and assessment

  • Hazard prevention and control

  • Information and training

  • Evaluation of program effectiveness. 2, 3

These elements are only an example of a successful management system. There are many other elements that can be included in this system, for example other elements could detail how you will communicate safety to the organization, a behavior-based safety process could be implemented to help understand and identify at-risk behaviors, etc.

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