The word management implies the process of managing, i.e. calculated measures taken to obtain a specific goal. Although the term management is considered differently across various sectors, in an organisation, management’s primary purpose is to get people to work together to attain the organisations’ objectives. In an organisation, ensuring the quality of the workplace and employee safety is the prime concern. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management is the part of an organisation dealing with the continual monitoring and improvement of the working environment and adopting necessary preventive measures. This paper aims to study the role of management practice and process in identifying and correcting an organisation’s significant features. 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 the threat of redress and penalties with safety management responses will be laid out. In this paper, it is to be taken into account that terms like OSH, OHS will be used interchangeably as they are used in the real world.
2. Evaluation of management theory, practice and process and links to occupational safety
Theories are defined as principles and conceptions established with valid proof that works in specific areas of operation. Hence, some management practices theories followed in the management arena, 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 a 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 experiment on how that task can be improved if done differently 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 a 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 its effectiveness. This theory required lines of authority, a single plan for organisation and discipline. As there was a clear hierarchy in this system, employees knew whom to report for which issue. This theory is closer to OHS management than the previous one as employees can reach out to proper authority for any grievances regarding workplace health and safety issues.
Behavioural Management Theory-
Sometimes called 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 behavioural training for managers for encouraging co-operation and thereby increasing output. In the behavioural theory of management, workers’ emotional need was given prime importance to achieve economic goals. Abraham Maslow(1954), in his famous Hierarchy of Need Theory, stated five types of basic human needs- psychological needs, safety needs, belonging and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs. Safety needs here implies the need for primary stability, security, freedom and protection from fear. This is true for the 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 more precise 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 OHS, operations management is mainly used as it relates to the operation of a health and safety program, which, if properly used, can optimise an organisation’s production by safeguarding employers’ safety and health.
From the brief description of the theories mentioned above, it is clear that much thought was not given to the notion of OHS in the early period of management theories. With the growth of the human rights movement and mass awareness about the workplace environment’s safety concerns, authorities were forced to think about occupational health and safety measures.
3. Identification of forms of management failure that lead to poor standards
Management aims to facilitate an organisation’s internal operations and oil it from time to time to ensure smooth running. Although it sounds exciting and promising, sometimes management encounters failures, which may wreak havoc on the organisation. In the case of OHS, leadership aims to state the safety guidelines for workers’ protection. Naturally, an effective OSH management should be an effective combination of visible control committed to ensuring safety. Proper security, composed of eligible safety advisers and protection, should be a line management responsibility. OSH management policy should be organisation specific, concise and written; readily accessible and communicated to all employees; reviewed regularly, and made available to the related external bodies as the organisation deems fit. If not considered at the right point of time, some factors can lead to management failure and ultimately bring down the organisation to a 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 a crucial factor in increasing productivity, quality of goods and services offered by the organisation, and customer satisfaction. In order to accomplish this, management should make proper communication regarding the policy with workers and other stakeholders like contractors, staffing agencies, investors, etc.
Defining the goals of the program:
Establishing goals and objectives enables the managers and employees to attain the expected plan. 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 the safety and health standards of any organisation. Defining specific and clear outlines for injury and illness prevention is a better option than relying on accident and illness data reports and making policy based on that. Furthermore, the safety management team should be split into minor factions for better operation, and they should be given time-bound targets, and resources should also be determined.
The resource is allocated by management to implement the health and safety program to ensure workplace safety and tackle any program’s weakness if it arrived. In order to reach this goal, resource estimation should be done a priori to run the program successfully. Workers should be given a window in their daily time frame to participate in the health and safety program. When preparing the company budget, the point of the safety and health program should be taken into consideration. And last but not least, resources should be procured and appropriately supplied for the maintenance of the program. Only then can a safety and health committee be met, and the organisation will attain the program goal.
The factors mentioned above are crucial in guaranteeing the OSH, and management should apply their time and brain for this matter.
The management leads a program by setting up roles and responsibilities and providing a positive and open environment that supports the cause of employee health and safety. In order to expect the best performance, a leader should be chosen who can lead the program, make a decision, track progress and coordinate the activities. In short, selecting a leader is always a vital part of any program or initiative,e and OHS is no exception. Another factor that should be kept in mind is to make both the management and employees interact freely about the health and safety issues and work in tandem to bring out a solution.
Finally, a positive and encouraging environment is a crucial 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.
4. Critical appraisal of positive action through the development of policy and practice
In order to control occupational hazards, a systematic management approach is now included in the regulatory requirements. One of the prime examples of this is the EU framework directive (1989). Though there is no mention of a specific OSH management system in an organisation in this directive, it dictates the companies to have some range of elements in their framework. These are management and workers’ involvement, a provision for risk assessment and control system, and the company should be OSH competent. To acquire the legal authorisation for establishing a chemical process industry within the EU, the affiliated organisation should have a safety management system in their framework to deal with any hazards, big or small.
National governments generally support establishing an OSH management system, and they continually revise and issue regulations and guidelines regarding this. An example of this government initiative includes encouraging a voluntary management system in the UK, being exempted from standard screening inspection in Denmark. The European Commission took a Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work to protect 217 million workers across the domino of the EU from workplace diseases and accidents. This framework recognises three significant challenges, those are –
- i) Improving the implementation of currently practised health and safety rules, especially by improving the capacity of small and micro enterprises to put inefficient 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 Article 153 of the European Union’s Functioning Treaty.
5. Determination of ability to deliver safety outcomes through management processes
Ensuring employees’ health and safety is a prime concern for an organisation, which can only be provided by effective management. Like any other method, the OSH management system has both positive and negative outcomes, and it can only be effective if properly applied and understood correctly. Some organisations prefer full-scale OSHMS (OSH management system) while scaled-down in some cases. The performance of an OSHMS depends on the performance of the respective organisation’s overall management system. Therefore it is essential to be conscious of the drawbacks that may disrupt its operation. But the upsides and downsides of OSHMS are only applicable for large and medium scale organisations, which 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. OSHMS is a generic approach that can be tailored to the needs of any organisation. There is a high risk involved in the construction industry, and hence a proper OSHMS should be present. The management should ensure that the workers working on the site should be supplied with adequate protective clothing and safety gears. Around the clock, ambulances and doctors should also be present to counter any health hazard. Mining is another example of a high-risk industry where a proper and stepwise approach of OSHMS should be current.
6. Consideration of the cost of redress and penalties on poor management practice
The OSH management system is a crucial 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 us useless tomorrow. Therefore, an organisation has to continually renovate their OHS sector to keep on par with the rest of the world. As a result, it will require a considerable amount of money that the organisation may not bear in some cases. In this case, some organisations prefer a scaled-down approach for their OHS programme. And sometimes, they also collaboratively work with other organisations to run their combined OHS programme. Though it may seem cost-effective on the outside, the negative effect of this system can be felt in case of multiple instances of an emergency occurring at different places at the same time.
In a slow economy, a safety management program often faces the first blow. Management doesn’t want to spend money on workers’ safety programs when cash is tight and a dire need to acquire resources and raw materials. Therefore in these cases, the supervisors proxy as safety officers. 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 adequately trained for this job or does not possess adequate experience, complications emerge. So it would be wise to accept cost-cutting, but the organisation should avoid the probabilities of losing expertise. Management should remain solid and bold on their safety resolution. I would remind the employees of the management’s concern about safety and motivate them to focus on their work.
But the company does not consider that having a good OHS benefits the employees and the organisation’s business profile. An organisation with high health and safety standards is a better client in a global business scenario. According to a study, it is estimated that the organisation gets a return of 2.2 Euros for every euro invested in OHS. This economic advantage can improve workers’ productivity, reduce compensation payments, and meet the public and private contractors’ requirements.
In order to take this cue, there may be instances where proper OHS infrastructure is already implemented, but the program is not correctly operational due to the negligence of management. Poor management is a serious issue and can hamper the image of an organisation in the global market. The management designated to monitor employees’ welfare and ensure workplace safety may sometimes consider this duty to be boring. They can also be demotivated as this particular sector in the organisation does not yield any immediate and physical investment return, thus rendering OHS a waste of time and resources.
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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].