Chapter 12.2: OHS Management Systems

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 contents

1 Introduction
2 Historical perspective
3.0 Understanding ‘systems’
3.1 System and systematic
3.2 Systems of work
3.3 OHS management systems
3.4 Systems thinking in an OHSMS context
3.5 System safety
3.6 System variability
4 Implications for OHS practice
5 Summary

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 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.)

Download document about BOK Learning Outcomes

Download Learning Outcomes for this Chapter



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AIHS Video: ISO 45001 – Getting Ready for the New Standard for OHS Management Systems.
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Safety of Work Podcast: Ep 68 Are safety cases an impending crisis?
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Safety of Work Podcast: Ep 37: How do audits influence intentions to improve practice?
Our feelings about audits. Feedback from the audit process. The format of a cluster-randomized trial. Lab vs. field results. How to act on audit results. Analysing the study’s results.
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