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Workplace Safety and Health: Management Commitment and Employee Involvement

In this article, we will look at Management Commitment as the first element of a successful Safety and Health Management System. Below are four practical actions that management can take to express their commitment to their workplace safety and health system.

Action item 1: Communicate management’s commitment to a safety and health program

A clear, written policy helps management communicate that safety and health is a primary organizational value—as important as productivity, profitability, product or service quality, and customer satisfaction.

How to accomplish it:

Establish a written policy signed by top management describing the organization’s commitment to safety and health, and pledging to establish and maintain a safety and health program for all workers.

Communicate the policy to all workers and, at appropriate times and places, and to relevant parties, including contractors, subcontractors, staffing agencies, and temporary workers at your worksite(s) such as:

  • Suppliers and vendors
  • Other businesses in a multi-tenant building
  • Visitors
  • Customers

Reinforce management commitment by considering safety and health in all business decisions, including contractor and vendor selection, purchasing, and facility design and modification.

Be visible in operations and set an example by following the same safety procedures you expect workers to follow. Begin work meetings with a discussion or review of safety and health indicators and any outstanding safety items on a “to do” list.

Action item 2: Define program goals

By establishing specific goals and objectives, management sets expectations for managers, supervisors, and workers, and for the program overall. The goals and objectives should focus on specific actions that will improve workplace safety and health.

How to accomplish it:

Establish realistic, measurable goals for improving safety and health. Goals emphasizing injury and illness prevention should be included, rather than focusing on injury and illness rates.

Develop plans to achieve the goals by assigning tasks and responsibilities to particular people, setting timeframes, and determining resource needs.

Action item 3: Allocate resources

Management provides the resources needed to implement the safety and health program, pursue program goals, and address program shortcomings when they are identified.

How to accomplish it:

Estimate the resources needed to establish and implement the program.

Allow time in workers’ schedules for them to fully participate in the program.

Integrate safety and health into planning and budgeting processes, and align budgets with program needs.

Provide and direct resources to operate and maintain the program, meet safety and health commitments, and pursue program goals.

Note: Resource needs will vary depending on your organization’s size, complexity, hazard types, and program maturity and development. Resource needs may include capital equipment and supplies, staff time, training, access to information and tools (e.g., vendor information, Safety Data Sheets, injury/illness data, checklists, online databases) and access to safety and health experts, including OSHA’s free and confidential On-site Consultation Program (see “For More Information” in the introduction to these recommended practices).

Action item 4: Expect performance

Management leads the program effort by establishing roles and responsibilities and providing an open, positive environment that encourages communication about safety and health.

How to accomplish it:

Identify a frontline person or persons who will lead the safety program effort, make plans, coordinate activities, and track progress. Define and regularly communicate responsibilities and authorities for implementing and maintaining the program, and hold people accountable for performance.

Provide positive recognition for meeting or exceeding safety and health goals aimed at preventing injury and illness (e.g., reporting close calls/near misses, attending training, conducting inspections).

Establish ways for management and all workers to communicate freely and often about safety and health issues, without fear of retaliation.

Note: Maintaining a positive and encouraging tone is important. Successful programs reward, rather than discipline, workers who identify problems or concerns, much like successful quality programs. Disciplinary measures should be reserved for situations in which an individual manager or worker is uncooperative or becomes an impediment to progress.