Health and Safety Management Systems

A health and safety management system (HSMS) is a systematic approach put in place by an employer to minimize the risk of injury and illness. It involves identifying, assessing, and controlling risks to workers in all workplace operations. An effective HSMS is a key component of any business; its scope and complexity will vary according to the type of workplace and the nature of its operations. For both development and implementation of an HSMS to be successful, effective, and efficient, it needs to be based on a formal structure of defined elements. A successful HSMS includes but is not limited to the following seven elements:

Management Involvement and Commitment

Hazard Identification and Assessment

Hazard Control

Training Emergency Response

Incident Reporting



The four phases in the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle involve:

Identifying and analyzing the problem

Developing and testing a potential solution

Measuring how effective the test solution was and analyzing whether it could be improved in any way

Implementing the improved solution fully

For all workers and organizations, health and safety should be an expressed value. Studies show that organizations committed to health and safety excellence achieve success through a strong HSMS. 5 Many benefits are associated with the development and implementation of an HSMS. Most importantly, an effective HSMS can help prevent injuries and property loss, reduce costs, and support due diligence. Developing a proactive approach to health and safety through an HSMS and its essential elements results in long-term financial and cultural benefits.6 Provincial and federal occupational health and safety authorities and the Criminal Code of Canada require that employers provide safe work sites for their employees and other workers.7 Implementing and executing an effective HSMS assists with meeting this obligation as well as standards of “due diligence,” a legal phrase referring to a person's duty to take reasonably practicable actions to protect the well-being of others.8 Not being aware of one's legal responsibilities and duties is not a defence for non-compliance.9 For an employer, having an effective, functioning HSMS can form the basis for a due diligence defence when an incident results in loss or harm.

A company and its workers can demonstrate their commitment to health and safety through an effective HSMS. The elements in this guideline can help a company not only to meet regulatory requirements, but also to exceed them. An effective HSMS can prevent loss and costs from incidents that lead to injuries, illnesses, or death. Workers' compensation costs can be significant, along with the other costs directly and indirectly related to and incurred when an injury or illness occurs. These costs add directly to operation costs and, in turn, profits.10 As well, a successfully implemented HSMS can prevent loss to property and production, losses from violations of legislation or regulations, lawsuits, and fines. In addition to the monies saved from fewer incidents, an efficient HSMS leads to additional savings from increased productivity by improving workers' skills, work practices, and consistency in carrying out critical tasks. Implementation of a successful HSMS also allows an employer to apply for a certificate of recognition (COR), which may result in WCB assessment rebates.

Commitment to an HSMS demonstrates management concern for ensuring safe operations and thus helps build better employee relations, retain the best employees, and increase the contributions of these workers in achieving business goals. Ensuring that all workers return home in the condition in which they came to work, if not better, justifies the commitment and dedication of resources to an HSMS. Through a rigorous literature review, Enform identified seven practices that companies follow to successfully support health and safety in the workplace and produced a white paper titled Paths to Safety Success: Seven Characteristics to Successful Worksite and Well Site Safety11 of an HSMS.

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