Chapter 12.2: OHS Management Systems
While organisations implement various programs and initiatives to ensure occupational
health and safety (OHS), they do not always connect them under a systems perspective. An
OHS management system (OHSMS) requires a holistic approach to risk management that is
shared across the organisation. A systems approach provides systematic management for
process consistency while recognising inevitable system variability, the interdependence of
system elements, and the importance of participation and shared learning. A systems
approach can ensure OHS is on par with other organisational business objectives and is
likely to increase the probability of compliance with legal obligations. However,
implementation of an OHSMS does not guarantee improvement in OHS performance, and
the OHS professional should be cognisant of factors that are likely to increase OHSMS
effectiveness. After proposing a definition of OHSMS, and briefly considering the historical
and legislative contexts, this chapter presents an OHSMS element structure, and explores
the outcomes of, first, research evaluating OHSMS effectiveness and, second, a discussion
forum with OHS professionals. Drawing on both the literature and the practical perspective,
the chapter concludes with implications for OHS practice, including a set of guiding
principles for OHSMS development.
Keywords: safety, health, management, system, OHSMS
First year of publication: 2021
Current Version: 2021
Chapter 12.2: OHS Management Systems
Table of content
1.1 What is an OHSMS?
2 Historical perspective
4 OHSMS organising elements
5 The effectiveness of OHSMSs
5.1 Evaluation of OHSMSs as systems
5.2 Evaluation of the impact of OHSMSs on OHS objectives
5.3 OHSMS facilitators and barriers
6 Practical perspectives
6.1 Emergent themes
6.2 Strengths and weaknesses of OHSMS
6.3 Development of an OHSMS
7 Implications for OHS practice
Appendix: OHSMS organising elements
List of Figures
Figure 1 OHS management system organising elements
List of Tables
Table 1 Summary of OHS management system organising elements
Table 2 Table 2: OHS management system enablers, barriers and external factors
Table 3 Strengths and weaknesses of OHS management systems as perceived by forum participants
Nektarios Karanikas DProf, BSc(Hons), MSc, SFHEA, GradIOSH, PMP, CEng, MHFESA, FRAeS
Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology
Nektarios Karanikas is an Associate Professor in the Health, Safety and Environment discipline of the
School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT. Nektarios has more than 20 years of industry
experience and holds professional qualifications in OHS, human factors, project management and
engineering. He has been a member of various national and international associations and has
(co)authored book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers focusing on
safety/risk management and human factors. Nektarios has presented his work at more than 80
events, and he actively volunteers in a wide range of scientific and professional activities.
Pam Pryor AO BSc, BEd, GDipOHM, MAppSci, ChOHSP, FAIHS
Manager, OHS Body of Knowledge Development, Australian Institute of Health & Safety
With a background in OHS consulting and OHS education, Pam now specialises in OHS capability
and related aspects of OHS professionality. Pam was a key player in the development of the INSHPO
OHS Professional Capability Framework and received the 2017-18 President’s Award from the
American Society of Safety Professionals for this work. Pam received an Officer of the Order of
Australia in 2018 for her contribution to OHS through leadership and advisory roles, particularly in
developing standards for education frameworks.
Pam contributed to this chapter by organising and delivering the OHS professionals’ forum, analysing
and reporting the forum results, and providing suggestions for improving several sections of the
Learning Outcomes: Systems
The OHS Body of Knowledge takes a conceptual approach which enables it to be applied in different contexts and frameworks.
To optimise its value for education and professional development learning outcomes have been developed for each technical chapter in the Body of Knowledge.
The learning outcomes as described give an indication of what should be the capabilities of an OHS professional; it is up to those developing OHS education programs, OHS professionals planning their CPD or recruiters or employers selecting or developing people for the OHS function to consider the required breadth vs. depth .
Please read the section on using the learning outcomes before delving into the leaning outcomes of the individual chapters.
The numbers against each learning outcome refer to the chapter number of the BOK download page. No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, .13, 14, 15.)
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