In order to understand safety management, one must first demystify the concept of safety. Safety can simply be defined as a situation where there is no harm or danger. In practice one can actually discover that there is no such thing as absolute safety. In this case, one could say that safety management is the control of risk or danger. Safety management has also been described by the National Safety Management Society as a process mainly exercised to improve the performance of a company. The main focus of safety management is to foresee threats and risks involving the environment, company operations and procedures before they actually occur. Safety management involves the putting in place of company policies to protect the safety and well being of workers in the workplace. This means that safety management is one of the major responsibilities of any organization, just like human resource or others. Safety management is both used to prevent accidents and provide remedies for accidents that have already occurred. The strategies employed in safety management vary from one organization to the next; there are however general systems and procedures that can be put in place to ensure safety. The major reasons for management of safety would be in order to comply with legal and ethical considerations and for financial reasons too.
Safety Management Strategies
A company is required to put in place a broad safety program which would include a set of rules, regulations and activities aimed at improving safety in the workplace. In order to implement and coordinate the activities of a safety program there needs to be in place a safety management system. This system is a process of management of safety which includes accountabilities, structures and the necessary strategies to ensure safety. The main goal of this system is to point out the hazards, mitigate risks and implement corrective action. It is also to monitor and evaluate implementation of safety standards. Safety management systems are also supposed to define how senior management will be accountable for the management of safety (Thomen, 1991). The system itself should be checked every now and then to ensure that it is working efficiently.
Another strategy used in safety management is safety performance targets and indicators and safety requirements. These measures are used to test for the levels of safety that are deemed acceptable. Safety indicators are used in gauging the safety performance of a particular division. Safety performance targets are the objectives or goals for the highest attainable standards of safety. For instance one could set a goal of zero accidents, which would be a high standard of safety. Safety requirements are put in place in order to realize both safety targets and indicators. These requirements include policies, systems and procedures through which performance measures can be identified. Safety indicators and targets are somehow similar, they both express a certain standard hoped to be achieved.
The Safe Work branch under the International Labour Organization (ILO) has also set up Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (IL-OSH 2001). This guideline provides an international model of safety management that is well-matched with national safety management systems. These guidelines are not legally binding; they merely set international safety standards. The ILO also has in place two international instruments dealing with safety management. These are the Occupational Safety and Health Convention No.155 of 1981 and the Occupational Health Services Convention No.161 of 1985. Countries that have ratified these two conventions are ethically bound to abide by the provisions thereof. The guidelines also provide for a national policy framework for health and safety management structures and it is stated that this framework should be supported by statute. According to the ILO Guidelines, safety management systems comprise: organizational structures; policies; strategies and plans for implementation of the strategies and assessment of performance of the system and laying down plans for improving the system.
The United States has implemented some of the provisions of the ILO. There is in place the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, which is a competent institution for drafting a national policy on occupational safety and health management systems. OSHA requires organizations to ensure safety of employees in the place of work. To this end, they are expected to set up a safety management plan. Rajendran & Clarke (2011) emphasizes that a safety management plan is necessary to foresee the potential risks of a particular building project. Organizations can also form safety committees to administer the safety management systems and processes and come up with safety management plans. A safety management plan contains the overall safety procedures that apply to a company.
Training of employees also forms an integral part of safety management. This is because it is important for workers to know ways of contributing to their own safety. Organizations can host yearly training sessions to educate employees or workers on safety management procedures. In these forums workers can also be informed of their right to a safe working environment. This would mean they would be aware of the right avenues to be used in case of contravention of the rules on safety by senior management.
Some of the organizations that have implemented safety management in their organizational structures include the International Civil Organization (ICAO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), among others. These organizations are concerned with high risk businesses. If safety is not a priority in these areas, then fatal accidents would be inevitable. That is the reason safety management systems are taken very seriously in these sectors.
Safety management also caters for emergency planning. This means one has to cater for situations where an unexpected hazard occurs. An emergency response plan should be put in place and be made known to all employees. Emergency response plans should be regularly practiced so as to ensure total familiarity. For example fire alarm drills are carried out in most organizations so as to ensure that people know how to respond in case of a fire. Emergency plans should also be accessible at the place of work and they should be pertinent and practical.
Safety management is very important in any organization. There has to be a coherent safety management system for the proper management of safety. To summarize, an ideal safety management system would include a management plan and safety promotion. It would also include management of data information whereby safety policies and regulations are made known. There is also identification and management of risks and hazards. This means that structures are put in place to spot areas of potential risk and thereafter plans for management of risk are setup to close up the areas of potential risk.
Safety management systems also include reporting of hazards. There must also be investigation of accidents and programs to oversee safety and training of employees on management of safety. Safety management also entails notifying workers or personnel of any major changes in the workplace especially in operational procedures. These are the salient features of any safety management system, which should be carefully implemented, if the workplace is to be labeled safe.