Importance of Top Management Leadership and Commitment toward OH&S Management System
Leadership, commitment and active support from top management are critical for the success of the OH&S management system and for the achievement of its intended outcomes. A culture that supports an organisation’s OH&S management system is largely determined by top management and is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, managerial practices, perceptions, competencies and patterns of activities that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, its OH&S management system.
Understanding what is considered adequate evidence of top management involvement in demonstrating leadership and commitment with respect to ISO 45001 can often be quite perplexing. This article puts forward several practical ways of demonstrating top management involvement. Firstly, let’s define top management and identify their responsibilities.
Defining Top Management
Top management refers to a person or group of people who directs and controls an organisation at the highest level. In practical terms, top management can mean a small business owner, the executive board or, in a non-hierarchical structure, everyone involved in taking high-level decisions.
Top Management Responsibilities with Respect to the OH&S Management System
1. Leadership and Commitment
Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the OH&S management system by:
- taking overall responsibility and accountability for the prevention of work-related injury and ill health, as well as the provision of safe and healthy workplaces and activities;
- ensuring that the OH&S policy and related OH&S objectives are established and are compatible with the strategic direction of the organisation;
- ensuring the integration of the OH&S management system requirements into the organisation’s business processes;
- ensuring that the resources needed to establish, implement, maintain and improve the OH&S management system are available;
- communicating the importance of effective OH&S management and of conforming to the OH&S management system requirements;
- ensuring that the OH&S management system achieves its intended outcome(s);
- directing and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the OH&S management system;
- ensuring and promoting continual improvement;
- supporting other relevant management roles to demonstrate their leadership as it applies to their areas of responsibility;
- developing, leading and promoting a culture in the organisation that supports the intended outcomes of the OH&S management system;
- protecting workers from reprisals when reporting incidents, hazards, risks and opportunities;
- ensuring the organisation establishes and implements a process(es) for consultation and participation of workers;
- supporting the establishment and functioning of health and safety committees
2. OH&S policy
Top management shall establish, implement and maintain an OH&S policy.
3. Organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities
Top management shall ensure that the responsibilities and authorities for relevant roles within the OH&S management system are assigned and communicated at all levels within the organisation and maintained as documented information.
Top management shall assign the responsibility and authority for:
- ensuring that the OH&S management system conforms to the requirements of this document;
- reporting on the performance of the OH&S management system to top management.
Important terms for assessing top management leadership and commitment
involvement in decision-making.
seeking views before making a decision.
extent to which planned activities are realised and planned results achieved.
intentions and direction of an organisation, as formally expressed by its top management.
person performing work or work-related activities that are under the control of the organisation.
Injury and ill health
adverse effect on the physical, mental or cognitive condition of a person.
Examples of adequate evidence of top management involvement
In order to provide suitable evidence of top management involvement and engagement, documented information must be provided, along with actions assigned as appropriate.
The following list provides some actions that may be considered as objective evidence to demonstrate that top management are undertaking effective leadership, commitment and accountability:
- Establishing the organisation’s mission, vision and values, considering its context, the needs and expectations of its relevant interested parties, and business objectives. These may be documented in the company’s strategic business plans.
- Writing the OH&S Policy (not just signing it off).
- Establishing and documenting the OH&S objectives in line with the strategic/business objectives.
- Discussing OH&S at senior management and board meetings to demonstrate it is entrenched in the organisation’s business process. Records of such meeting should be maintained.
- Active involvement in the review of the organisation’s OH&S, at planned intervals, with minutes including detailed information of who was present, what was discussed, and action points agreed.
- Identifying adequate resources to establish, implement, maintain and improve the OH&S system. An organisational chart should be documented identifying the persons responsible for the management of OH&S. Job descriptions should also be defined, documented and signed-off.
- Adding OH&S as an agenda item to company-wide meetings.
- Communicating the status of the OH&S management system (recent success, what needs improvement, lessons learned, etc.) via newsletters, internal communication platforms, posters, etc.
- Committing senior management to demonstrate leadership with respect to OH&S. Senior management may need training on the Standard to understand their roles with respect to OH&S. If workers observe top management taking OH&S responsibility seriously this will greatly assist in the establishment of a positive OH&S culture throughout the organisation.
- Ensuring OH&S is a key element of the business’ strategic training plan.
- Establishing a safety committee.
- Creating and maintaining an organisational culture that protects works from reprisals when reporting incidents, hazards, risks and opportunities. Perhaps, institute a reward scheme for effective OH&S performance.
- Reviewing the findings of internal audits to ensure that the OH&S management system achieves its intended outcome.
The above elements provide a general set of practical measures of top management involvement. These will differ from organisation to organisation depending on size, structure and activities. It is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea of the expectations that ISO 45001 places on top management. In conclusion, the organisation is in a better position to achieve its OH&S objectives and to identify opportunities for improvement when top management creates a culture that encourages people, at all levels, to actively participate in the OH&S management system.