A "system" may be thought of as an orderly arrangement of interdependent activities and related procedures which implement and facilitate the performance of a major activity within an organization. (American Society of Safety Engineers, Dictionary of Terms)
Take a look at Syssie, the cow. Syssie is a system, right? You can tell she's a cow, so she has "structure." She needs food, air, water, a suitable environment, tender loving care, and other "inputs" to function properly. We know she has respiratory, digestion, circulation, and many other "processes" inside. Finally, she produces outputs like milk, waste products, and behavior.
Just like Syssie, all organizational systems are composed of the same four basic components:
If a system does not have adequate structure, inputs, or processes, the outputs will not be those desired. Let's take a closer look at these components as they relate to the safety management system.
The structure of an SMS can take many forms. All safety management systems function within and support the company's operations system. Remember safety managers and staff exist to help (assist) the line organization, not control it. Safety people are consultants, not cops!
We'll discuss a simple structure that includes four basic positions; safety manager, safety engineer, human resources coordinator, and the safety committee. Actually, there's really no one-fits-all structure. In a small company, one person may fulfill duties in each of the four positions. In larger companies, each position may be filled by an individual.
It's important to understand where the safety function "fits" in an organization. Some organizations make the "mistake" of thinking safety is primarily a human resource function: It's not. Although HR is an important part of the SMS, it's not the center or hub of the system. Safety is a primary function of operations. It relates directly to the quality of the production/service process within the organization. Therefore, the system usually works best when the safety manager reports to the top operational decision-maker. With this in mind, let's discuss each of these positions.
The safety manager has overall responsibility for the SMS, but primarily focuses on the physical safety and health of employees through the use of administrative controls to limit exposure to hazards. This position most effectively reports to the head of operations. In larger companies, the safety manager is usually the in-house subject matter expert on mandated OSHA programs. Also, this person will be the primary consultant to the employer on safety-related matters. He or she will also help the safety committee as a consultant. It's usually best if the safety manager is a consultant to, but not a member of, the safety committee. When the safety manager is also a safety committee member, he or she usually winds up filling the chairperson position, and does "all the work."
Typical programs and duties of the SM include:
The first question to ask when a hazard is identified in the workplace is, "How can we engineer the hazard out"? The safety engineer usually works in the maintenance or engineering department and is interested in using engineering controls to eliminate or reduce hazards. Consequently, the safety engineer needs additional training in "engineering" topics such as machine guarding, electrical safety and lockout/tagout (See other OSHA Workshops and OSHA Training Institute Region X for more course info).
Examples of programs and duties the safety engineer may be responsible for include:
This position is primarily interested in the quality of programs that affect the psychological health of employees. Depending on what works best, this person may or may not be a member of the safety committee.
Safety- and health-related human resource programs may include:
In some states employers are required to have a safety committee. Even when safety committees are not required, it's smart business to have one. This in-house consultant team acts as the "eyes and ears," for the SM by collecting data. The committee helps the SM identify, analyze, and evaluate the design and performance of the SMS. The SC provides data to the safety manager, safety engineer and human resource coordinator. The committee usually submits recommendations and reports to the safety manager.
Remember Syssie? Well, just like Syssie the cow, the SMS behaves in a way that is unique to each organization. The behaviors occur as individual actions and SMS processes, each with a number of unique set of activities and procedures. A system performance evaluation looks at how well these actions and processes are working. The primary SMS activities and processes include the following:
If the system provides quality inputs and effectively performs activities and procedures, the outputs (effects) are likely to be those desired and intended. Remember, quality in likely means quality out. Short-term results are usually specific observable-measurable conditions and behaviors. Long-term outcomes are not so easy to see and effect the entire organization.
Every system is designed perfectly to produce what it produces.
You know, every organization has a safety management system. In fact, you cannot NOT have a safety management system. Any system, whether it's Syssie the cow, or a complex safety management system can get sick if it's not designed properly and deployed effectively. Just like Syssie, your safety management system will produce only what it is designed to produce. It can't produce anything else. If your safety management system results in symptoms like poor employee safety performance and high accident rates, it's because the safety management system has been, you guessed it, perfectly designed to produce those results.
Bottom line idea: If you properly design the safety management system, the symptoms will not arise!
Well, that's a lot of information. It's critical to understand these basic concepts before moving on to discuss the analysis and evaluation process. Now it's time to take the review quiz.
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