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How to Write a Safety Management System for Your Business not the Regulator

Posted by Robert O'Neill on Apr 19, 2016 3:40:31 PM
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It has always been a standard among health and safety management systems to incorporate information on personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency evacuation, and incident reporting.

However, this has not been the case lately.

A recent audit has found that in excess of a hundred safety induction manuals from various companies only publish information for the purpose of compliance. Yes, sure is, these compliance policies will protect the employer legally.

But those High Performance organisations that are very efficient in keeping up with Work Health and Safety policies look at their systems differently. Work Health and Safety Management Systems must also include information that motivates your people to work together on safety and fully incorporate aspects of a positive safety performance culture.

Unlocking the secrets of Work Health and Safety performance to higher levels of effectiveness:

1. Include Whistle-blower Policies.

In order to maintain a highly functioning performance culture, the general rule is to ensure that workers will always feel safe. It is a two-fold mission: safety in voicing out their opinion and physically safe working in an environment.

Your employee needs to feel safe when they discuss work issues. They should be free to offer suggestions without judgement or ridicule. Thus, they should be comfortable to do so and trust that their company cares enough about them. The positive effect of this motivation is that they'll feel engaged rather than just existing to work and survive without work issues.

Organisations must assign an individual who will be accessible at any time, if anyone encounters work issues. This person will be the one to consult, instead of the manager (if the person concerned is not comfortable discussing with the immediate supervisor). This is most applicable to dodgy workplace practices where bribery, sexual harassment, workplace hazard neglect are predominant and where managers that work in such a way in their department who might not allow subordinates to feel free to speak up.

2. Align your people with "Conduct Standards".

Conduct standards are a great way to align staff to the culture of the organisation. Instead of discussing the "how" and "what" on Work Health and Safety, it's more appropriate to focus the discussion on explaining the "Why's."

For instance, if the core value of the company is “Integrity” then it should discuss the importance of integrity. Try to make a humanised approach in tackling the conduct standards so that it is friendlier and clearly stated on how to operate within the company. Try to give lots of examples whenever possible. Add more relevant visual images. What better way to explain your safety message across the organisation, than creating infographics that provide the information as pictures rather than words. Another alternative is to create training videos that visually explain your policies.

3. The Importance of Teamwork.

Another flaw in writing Work Health and Safety Management Systems is that they only focus on letting workers know what they are prohibited to do (from the process perspective). This misses out on other important areas like helping the workers understand how staff need to work together to communicate about safety. Having each group working as one cohesive team goes a long way towards enhancing your safety performance. If everyone cares about what each other are doing, then looking out for safety issues on the horizon becomes second nature.

4. Conduct of Supervisors.

Safety performance and staff productivity are dramatically improved once positive communications and good working relationships between senior management, the front line and workers are established. It allows workers to comfortably raise concerns which will result in lower incidences of work incidents (if management will immediately act on safety issues).

Supervisors are required to possess excellent people skills to deal with their staff to motivate them to talk about issues. Try implementing codes of conduct for supervisors as well. Communicate openly with frontline staff and senior management, as well as empathise with staff about any complaints.

5. Be friendly.

A lot of organisations tend to write safety system documents that are solely written from a legal perspective, rather than the purpose of protecting the staff itself through adaptive and resilient system design.

Write the system, as if you're talking to your best friend or child. Write it from the perspective that you are a responsible individual in charge of taking care of a large group of human beings. This is no time to sound like a lawyer. Do not use negative language. For instance: write "Remain calm" instead of "Don't panic.”

Finally, an Adaptive System is a Flexible system that improves its performance (or chances of survival) by monitoring and adjusting its own configuration and operations in response to feedback from its environment.

A system is said to be Resilient if it can adjust its functioning prior to, during, or following changes and disturbances, and thereby sustain required operations under both expected and unexpected conditions. 




Topics: Blog, Safety Management Systems