Management and Leadership

Resources - Management Systems and Leadership

Elements of Effective Safety & Health Management System

Leadership and Involvement

Leadership is looked upon as the outside influence that shapes corporate culture. Management should provide leadership that encourages workers within an organization to participate in the programs offered by the company, in this case, the safety and health program. The elements of a safety and health program can be broken into the following components:

  • A safety policy written and communicated to all employees.
  • A goal established and objectives developed.
  • Responsibilities are assigned.
  • Top management provides visible leadership.
  • Employees are involved and actively participate in the program.
  • Employees have the authority and resources to do the task.
  • Employees are held accountable for results.
  • The program results are evaluated and changes made for continuous improvement.

Policy Statements

A clear worksite safety and health policy allows employees to understand the importance of safety and health protection in relation to other organizational values such as quality and efficiency. Safety and health need to be corporate objectives, similar to sales and profits. Reducing compensation costs does have an immediate and extensive effect on the bottom line.

Policy statements signed by top management show that endorsement of the policy is from the top. A concern shown by top management for safety makes it easier for supervisors to carry out and enforce company policy, for the company to promote safe and healthful work practices, for employees to observe the stated policy, to purchase equipment that has been designed with safety features, and to maintain and repair equipment according to good engineering control and safety practices.


  • Develop a formal written policy statement in which the company declares its intent to provide a safe and healthful place of employment, which is signed by the business owner or other chief executive officer.
  • Hold a meeting with all employees to communicate your safety and health policy and discuss your objectives for safety and health for the rest of the year.
  • Post your policy and allow employees time to read and understand it.
  • Ensure that newly hired employees are impressed during their orientation with the idea that safety is an important part of their job.

Goals and Objectives

You make your general safety and health policy specific by establishing a clear goal and objectives. These set the framework for assigning responsibility. Once a policy is developed, management should set a goal for safety and health, and then build objectives that will allow employees to reach the goal. The goal should be a realistic one, so as not to discourage employees from striving for the goal.

Once the goal is established, you can now set objectives and assign responsibilities. Set objectives based on performance measures and get others involved in establishing the objectives. Each employee should be able to see his or her work activities moving toward the goal, thus allowing them to meet the objectives.

  • Establish a numeric or descriptive goal to make your policy specific.
  • Identify objectives that are most important to your program goal which help you create an effective program.
  • Set objectives based on indicators, which tell you whether you did, or did not perform as expected.
  • Assign a person to carry out the activity indicated in the objective.
  • Discuss the goal and objectives with all employees through meetings, letters or postings.

Assigning Responsibility

Everyone should have some responsibility for safety and health in the workplace. It should be clearly understood by all employees what their responsibilities are in the workplace, and what discipline will be forthcoming if failure to carry out these responsibilities should occur. The employer should try to base responsibility on the goal and set objectives. This way everyone knows what the goal is, and will try to meet the objectives that were set. Put responsibilities in writing and specify responsible parties. Giving people responsibility and accountability for their actions instills a sense of pride, which will carry over in terms of wanting to have a good performance record.

  • Make clear assignments of responsibility for every element of the program you develop. Make certain that everyone understands them.
  • Ensure through a periodic audit that safety responsibilities are known and are being carried out.
  • Include safety responsibilities in the periodic employee review.
  • Hold all employees accountable for results.
  • Develop a positive way to reward good safety performance.

Commitment and Leadership

If it is perceived by employees that management fully supports and abides by the safety and health program, they are more likely to emphasize safety and health in their own work habits. Employees follow management's lead.

  • Make sure that support from the top is visible by taking an active part in the safety and health program.
  • Personally review all inspection and accident reports to ensure follow-up when needed.
  • Ensure that all managers and supervisors follow all safety requirements that employees must follow, even if they are only in the area briefly.
  • Stop infractions of safety rules or work procedures you might notice; personally stop hazardous conditions or activities.
  • Hold managers, supervisors and employees accountable for their actions.
  • Take charge by letting it be known that safety and health are high priorities in your company.
  • Reward good performance.
  • Listen to employee concerns and correct deficiencies.
  • Be "visible" to employees by making periodic walk-throughs.

Employee Involvement

Get employees involved. Decide what employee involvement means to you (i.e. asking for input before management decisions are made; or sharing the decision-making responsibility; or allowing employees to make decisions) and communicate this to employees.

The best worker safety and health protection occurs where everyone at the worksite shares responsibility for protection. This does not take the responsibility of the safety and health of the worker from the employer.

Management should encourage employees to have real input into the total safety program for a variety of reasons: employees often know best; it promotes high morale; and it indicates that the management cares. Employees should be encouraged to make suggestions that will decrease the danger of accidents to themselves and their fellow employees and reduce risks o f damage to equipment and materials. Involving employees in developing their workplace safety and health program is a good way to obtain buy-in for the program.

  • Decide the extent of employee involvement and communicate to employees.
  • Tell your employees what you expect of them.
  • Promote employee involvement through safety committees or other advisory groups.
  • Give employees adequate training and resources for the job expected of them.
  • Require that departments use employees to develop safe work procedures for new tasks and processes.
  • Provide a procedure for employees to report hazards.
  • Ensure that employees are given a response to their safety concerns.
  • Make sure co-workers hear about it when other employees' ideas are successful.

Authority and Resources

Any realistic assignment of responsibility must be accompanied by needed authority and resources. When an employee is given the responsibility to do something, the resources and authority to complete the task should be accompanying. As employees within the organization grow, they will take on more responsibility if they feel management is backing them. The employer should provide all the tools necessary for the employee to be successful at his or her task. As an example, safety equipment, meetings and related expenses should be budgeted because safety and health programs must be reflected as a legitimate function of the company. Providing employees adequate authority and resources makes them problem solvers, not problem givers.

  • Develop an annual safety budget.
  • Prioritize expenditures regarding safety.
  • Develop alternate safety measures for safety improvements that must be postponed due to lack of available funding.
  • Give those with responsibility adequate resources and support (people, training, money), and authority to get the job done.


Once you have assigned responsibility and provided the appropriate authority and resources, hold people accountable for achieving what they have been asked to do. Accountability for one's actions must accompany the responsibility given and the authority and resources provided. Holding employees accountable helps them see how important they are to the total process within the company.

  • Enforce your program fairly and consistently.
  • Build positive reinforcement into the safety program. This positive reinforcement can be in the form of:
    1. Letter of appreciation signed by an officer of the company;
    2. Certificate of service that can be framed and displayed in the worker's home;
    3. Expression of appreciation at a group meeting.
  • Reflect compliance with your safety program in employee performance evaluations.
  • Reward effective safety performance as future behavior patterns are strengthened.
  • Develop a disciplinary action program so that employees are held accountable once they have been trained.

Program Evaluation

Once the safety and health program is in place and all components are functioning, management needs to check on it from time to time to ensure its effectiveness. Some key indices of safety and health performance are property damage; frequency rates, lost time injuries; high turnover or absenteeism; employee's perception of management's interest and involvement; and insurance claims. If the program is not working, the employer should decide why and try to resolve it. Some areas of the program may need more work; some procedures may need to be changed or added where current activities are not producing the desired results. A successful safety and health program will provide a sense of pride among employees, making them feel like they are accomplishing something.

  • Review program at least annually using tools such as incidence rates; experience modification factors; worker’s compensation costs; program goals and objectives.
  • Make changes as needed

Source: Onsite Safety & Health Consultation Program, Industrial Services Division, Illinois Department of Commerce & Community Affairs

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Copyright ©2000-2019 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).