An important part of implementing an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) – sometimes also referred to as a “safety management system” – is to provide workers with the opportunity for meaningful participation.
There are several reasons for this. One reason is that people throughout an organization, in multiple departments and job positions – but especially those who are at the “front line” of making things happen – usually know first-hand where a number of safety and health-related risks exist. As part of a team, they can offer valuable input into the “where’s” and “why’s” as well as give suggestions for ways to improve processes. Another reason is that many people “like” to have a say in processes that can affect their safety. The ability for workers to feel they have and in fact have some degree of “control” over matters affecting their safety can be a large factor in work satisfaction as well as longer-term buy-in, into their organization’s rules, requirements, and processes. And yet another important reason is that this participation can lead to acquired knowledge and work practices that impact organizational resilience and flexibility. It is not always obvious – people don’t always “get” this – but it is often the case that things that affect safety are also related to other business processes, and actions taken to improve safety can positively impact other elements of a business.
When it comes to ergonomics, for established businesses that are already underway, workers are not always self-aware of physical motions that can create risk for themselves either in the shorter term or the longer term. However, there are some newer technologies available now that can help workers and organizations do a better job, and easier job, of identifying these sorts of risk factors. By using some of this technology (through “wearable technology” or other video technology), organizations can get much more information in an accessible format, more quickly than ever before. Taking advantage of these sorts of methods can help increase worker comfort and job satisfaction while helping to decrease injury costs while also gaining worker participation and feedback that is very consistent with the concepts in several safety management systems. Is it mandatory that this sort of thing be used in order to conform to the requirements of ISO 45001 or ANSI/ASSP Z10.0? No, of course not. But can it be a very helpful tool that accomplishes several positive end results? In my opinion, while each organization needs to evaluate what is best for them based on company specific considerations, these tools have tremendous potential.
I co-authored an article with Heather Chapman that provides more detail about this: New Technologies to Support Sustainable Safety Management Systems, published in the July 2023 edition of Professional Safety. Take a look at the article (click on the title) if you’d like more detail about how these technologies could help existing work processes.
Note that for business processes that are in the planning phases (new facilities being planned/built, or new work cells/processes being added to existing facilities) – I would suggest that readers consider that ergonomic-related hazards can be “designed out” of work processes, or at least, often, reduced – by using a concept often referred to as “Prevention Through Design” (PtD). While the application of PtD has more often (especially in the distant past) been thought of as a method to prevent and reduce risks associated with machinery, equipment, facility operations and processes – it can also be applied to the prevention of ergonomic injuries. There is a great article on this topic in the June 2023 edition of Profesional Safety by Bruce Lyon and Georgi Popov (Prevention Through Ergonomics: Integrating Human Factors Into a Prevention Through Design Approach).