The word management literally implies the process of managing, i.e. calculated measures taken to obtain a certain goal. Although the term management is considered differently across various sectors, generally in case of an organisation, the primary purpose of management is to get people work together to attain the objectives of the organisations. In an organisation, ensuring the quality of workplace and employee safety is prime concern. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management is the part of an organisation dealing with the continual monitoring and improvement of working environment and adopting necessary preventive measures. The aim of this paper is to study the role of management practice and process in identifying and correcting the significant features of an organisation. Therefore different management approaches and how they help in OHS improvement will be discussed first. After that, management interventions and measurements employed to monitor and improve OSH will be detailed. Finally, the relationship between threat of redress and penalties with responses of safety management will be laid out. It is to be taken into account that in this paper, terms like OSH, OHS will be used interchangeably as they are used so in real world.
Theories are defined as principles and conceptions established with valid proof that works in specific areas of operation. Hence, there are some theories of management practices followed in the arena of management and like all other disciplines; these theories can be traced back in an evolutionary staircase. The major theories are-
Scientific Management Theory-
Frederick Winslow Taylor was proponent of this theory who laid four basic principles for scientific management- to study the workers perform tasks, to gather the informal job knowledge of the workers, to conduct experiment on how those task can be improved if done in a different way and to codify the new methods as written rules and standard operating procedures. In also dictated to carefully select people who possess the necessary skills and abilities to cope with the new scenario and provide training to them. This proposal can be attributed as close match to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).
Administrative Management Theory-
Max Weber and Fayol came up with the idea of formal organisation and the systems necessary to maximise the effectiveness of organisation. This theory required lines of authority, single plan for organisation and discipline. As there was clear hierarchy in this system, employees knew whom to report for which issue. This theory is more close to OHS management than the previous as employees can reach out to proper authority for any grievances regarding workplace health and safety issue.
Behavioural Management Theory-
Sometimes called as the human relations movement, this theory is concerned with the human dimensions of work. According to this theory, if human behaviour is best understood it leads to productivity improvement. It also proposed for a behavioural training for managers for encouraging co-operation and thereby increasing output. In behavioural theory of management, fulfilment of emotional need of workers was given prime importance to achieve economic goals. Abraham Maslow(1954), in his famous Hierarchy of Need Theory stated five types of basic human need- psychological needs, safety needs, belonging and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs. Safety needs here implies to the need for basic stability, security, freedom and protection from fear. This is true for workplace too as workers feel more motivated to work in an organisation if their safety and security is ensured. In this way, Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory stated a clearer picture regarding OHS.
Management Science Theory-
This theory employs a quantification approach so that resources are best used. This theory is an extension of scientific management theory and aims to raise efficiency. This theory has different branches namely quantitative management, operations management, total quality management and management information system. In case of OHS, operations management is mostly used as it related with the operation of health and safety program, which if propery used, can optimize the production of an organisation by safeguarding employers’ safety and health.
From the brief description of the above mentioned theories, it is clear that in the early period of management theories, much though was not given to the notion of OHS. But later with the growth of human rights movement and mass awareness about safety concern of workplace environment authorities were forced to think on occupation health and safety measures.
The aim of management is to facilitate the internal operations of an organisation and oiling it time to time to ensure its smooth running. Although it sounds exciting and promising, sometimes management encounter failures too and that may wreck havoc on the organisation. On case of OHS, the aim of management is to state the safety guidelines for protection of workers. Naturally, an effective OSH management should be effective combination of visible management committed to ensure safety, policy of sound safety, composed of eligible safety advisers and safety should be a their line management responsibility. OSH management policy should be organisation specific; concise and clearly written ; readily accessible and communicated to all employees; should be reviewed in regular intervals and also should be made available to the related external bodies as the organisation deem fit. Some factors that, if not taken into consideration at right point of time, can lead to management failure and ultimately bring down the organisation to poor standard. Those are-
Communicating the commitment for safety and health program:
Clearly stated safety policy in written form helps to communicate the standards of health and safety of employees. Ensuring this standard is crucial factor in increasing productivity, quality of goods and services offered by the organisation and finally customer satisfaction. To accomplish this, management should make proper communication regarding the policy not only with workers but also other stakeholders like contractors, staffing agencies, investors etc.
Defining the goals of program:
Establishing goals and objectives enables the managers, and employees to attain the expected goal. Defining these goals would help to make the workplace better and safe for workers. To achieve this goal, realistic and measurable goals are to be established so that they would help to improve safety and health standards of any organisation. Defining specific and clear outlines for injury and illness prevention is better option that just to rely on accident and illness data report and make policy based on that. Furthermore, the safety management team should be split into small factions for better operation and they should be given time bound targets and resource should also be determined.
Resource is allocated by management to implement the health and safety program, to follow the aim of ensuring workplace safety and to tackle any weakness of the program if arrived. To reach to this goal, resource estimation should be done a priori to successfully run the program. Workers should be given a window in their daily time frame of work to participate in the health and safety program. When preparing the company budget, the point of safety and health program should be taken into consideration. And last but not the least, resources should be procured and supplied properly for maintenance of the program, only then safety and health commitment can be met and the organisation will attain the program goal.
The above-mentioned factors are crucial in guaranteeing the OSH and management should apply their time and brain for this matter.
A program is lead by the management by setting up roles and responsibilities and providing a positive and open environment which in turn supports the cause of employee health and safety. To expect the best performance, at first a leader should be chosen who can lead the program, make decision, track progress and co-ordinate the activities. In short, choosing a leader is always a vital part for the success of any program or initiative and OHS is no exception of that. another factor that should be kept in mid is to make both the management and employees interact freely about the health and safety issues and working in tandem to bring out a solution.
Finally, a positive and encouraging environment is key component in the fulfilment of a cause. Disciplinary provisions should be reserved for any unwanted and illegal activity that hampers the standard of the organisation.
To control occupational hazards, a methodical management approach is now included in the regulatory requirements. One of the prime example of this is the EU framework directive (1989). Though there is no mention for a specific OSH management system in a organisation in this directive, it dictates the companies to have some range of elements in their framework. These are – involvement of management and workers, a provision for risk assessment and control system and the company should be OSH competent. To acquire the legal authorization for establishing a chemical process industry within the EU, the corresponding organisation should have a safety management system in their framework so that deal with any hazards, big or small.
National governments generally support the establishment of OSH management system and they continually revise and issue regulations and guidelines regarding this. Example of this government initiative includes encouragement of voluntary management system in the UK, being exempted from standard screening inspection in case of Denmark. The European Commission took a Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work to protect 217 million workers across the domino of EU from workplace diseases and accidents. This framework recognizes three major challenges, those are -
i) Improving the implementation of currently practiced health and safety rules, especially by improving the capacity of small and micro enterprises to put in efficient and effective risk prevention programs
ii) Improving the probabilities to prevent work-related diseases by addressing new risks without jeopardising the existing ones.
iii) Take account of the ageing problem in the workforce
The EU has been given the authority to take directives in work health and safety in the Article 153 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.
Ensuring employees health and safety is prime concern for an organisation, and this can only be ensured by effective management process only. Like any other method, OSH management system has both positive and negative outcomes, and it can only be effective if proper it is applied and understood properly. Some organisations prefer full scale OSHMS (OSH management system), while in some cases it is scaled down. The performance of an OSHMS depends on the performance of the respective organisation’s overall management system. Therefore it is important to be conscious about the drawbacks that may disrupt its operation. But the up and down sides of OSHMS is only applicable for large and medium scale organisations, who have required technical and financial resources at their disposal. And it should also be kept in mind that OSHMS is a management system, not an OSH programme itself. OSHMS is a generic approach that can be tailored for the need of any organisation. In case of construction industry, there is high risk involved and hence a proper OSHMS should be present. The management should ensure that the workers working in the site should be supplied adequate amount of protective clothing and safety gears, along with round the clock ambulance and doctor should also be present to counter any health hazard. Mining is another example of high risk industry where a proper and stepwise approach of OSHMS should be present.
OSH management system is a crucial yet very necessary part of an organisation, and it demands state-of-the-art technological and financial resources. As technology is constantly upgrading itself and what was deemed perfect for yesterday may render as useless for tomorrow. Therefore, an organisation has to always renovate their OHS sector to keep par with rest of the world. As a result, it will require a huge amount of money which, in some cases, the organisation may not be able to bear. In this case, some organisations prefer a scaled down approach for their OHS programme. And sometimes they also work with other organisations in a collaborative manner to run their combined OHS programme. Though it may seem cost-effective on the outside, but the negative effect of this system can be felt in case of multiple instances of emergency occurring at different places at the same time.
In a slow economy, safety management program often face the first blow. Management don’t want to spend money on workers’ safety program when cash is tight and there is dire need to acquire resources and raw materials. Therefore in this cases, the supervisors proxy as safety officer. And the weekly safety program gets reduced to a minimal 10-20 minutes briefing, when the safety officer has time. But in this case, when OHS responsibilities are bestowed down to the line of people who are not properly trained for this job or does not posses adequate experience, complicacies emerge. So it would be wise to accept cost cutting, but the organisation should avoid probabilities of losing experience. Management should remain strong and bold on their safety resolution, i would remind the employees the management’s concern about safety and will motivate them to focus in their work.
But the company does not consider this fact that having a good OHS not only benefits the employees but also the business profile of the organisation. An organisation with high health and safety standards are better client in global business scenario. According to a study, it is estimated that for every euro invested in OHS, the organisation gets a return of 2.2 Euros. And this economic advantage can attributed into improved workers’ productivity, reduced compensation payments and meeting the public and private contractors’ requirements.
Taking this cue, there may be instances where proper OHS infrastructure is already implemented, but the program is not properly operational due to negligence of management. Poor management is a serious issue and can hamper the image of an organisation in global market. The management designated to monitor the welfare of employees and ensuring workplace safety may sometimes consider this duty to be boring. They can also be demotivated as this particular sector in organisation does not yield any immediate and physical return of investment, thus rendering OHS become wastage of time and resource.
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Osha.gov. (2017). Management Leadership | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. [online] Available at: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/management-leadership.html [Last Accessed 13 Jan. 2017].