Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems

A systems approach to manage occupational safety and health

Ensuring the fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment is essential to prevent work related accidents and diseases and protect and promote the health and well-being of workers.

In this context, the identification of hazards arising in or from the workplace and the assessment and control of the associated risks that could impair the health and well-being of workers are the key principles of the process of ensuring a safe and health workplace.

In the past decades, the increasing complexity and fast changing nature of the world of work called for a systems’ approach to managing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment.

OSH management systems have existed for several decades and have demonstrated their key role to successfully improve the implementation of OSH in the workplace by ensuring integration into business planning and development processes. The adoption of OSH management system also ensures more effective participation of workers in determining and implementing preventive measures.

There is no one size fits all and enterprises should analyse carefully their needs in relation to their means and tailor their OSH management system accordingly.

A significant number of OSH management system standards and guidelines have been developed and many countries have formulated national OSH strategies that also integrate the management systems approach. At the international level, the ILO published in 2001 “Guidelines on occupational safety and health management systems ILO-OSH 2001” which because of their tripartite approach have become a widely used model for developing national standards in this area.

This online toolkit for the management of safety and health at work will cover the following topics:


OSH Management System

An OSH management system is a set of interrelated or interacting elements to establish OSH policy and objectives, and to achieve those objectives. The application of a systems’ approach to the management of OSH in workplace ensures that the level of prevention and protection is continuously evaluated and maintained through appropriate and timely improvements.

In order to create and maintain a safe and healthy working environment and comply with the OSH requirements pursuant to national laws and regulations, employers are encouraged to make appropriate arrangements for the establishment of an OSH management system.

The system should contain the main elements of policy, organizing, planning and implementation, evaluation and action for improvement, as shown in the figure.
OSH Management Cycle

Guidelines on occupational safety and health management systems, ILO-OSH 2001

These voluntary guidelines provide a unique international model, compatible with other management system standards and guides. They reflect ILO’s tripartite approach and the principles defined in its international OSH instruments, particularly the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and Recommendation (No. 164). Their purpose is to assist organizations (enterprises/workplaces) and competent institutions in the achievement of continual improvement in OSH performance.

How can occupational safety and health be managed?

Based on the continual improvement approach defined in the ILO OSH 2001 guidelines, this webpage provides practical information on what employers need to consider when managing OSH in their workplace.

It covers the main elements of the OSH management system (Policy; Organizing; Planning and implementation; Evaluation; Action for Improvement) as well as specific issues to be considered for the effective management of OSH (Controlling the risks; Accidents and Investigations; Multi-employer workspaces; Deciding who can help employers with their duties; Consulting workers; Providing training and information; Providing supervision; First aid; Safety signs). The page also includes videos showcasing examples of OSH management at the enterprise level, as well as a short case study going through the steps of the continual improvement OSH management cycle and links to external resources.

Occupational Safety and Health - A Guide for stakeholders

This online guide provides information on the management of OSH issues that are that are common across many sectors of industry. It details actions that employers and workers could follow to ensure safe and healthy systems of work in their workplaces. The guide also provides information on specific OSH hazards and risks. Parties who assisted with the development of this guide are identified in the introduction to the guide and acknowledgements.

Risk assessment and management process

To create safe and healthy working environment, occupational risks need to be eliminated or minimized, as far as reasonably practicable. To this end, sound risk assessment and management should be carried out to identify the hazards and evaluate the associated risks that could cause harm to workers so that appropriate OSH measures can be developed and implemented. Such process allows to evaluate whether enough preventive measures are already in place or if more actions need be taken and to prioritize them.
The risk assessment and management process can be easily tailored to the size and activity of the enterprise.
The active participation of the workforce is essential to successfully carry out risk assessment and management. Even if it is not the responsibility of the workers to carry out a risk assessment (this is the responsibility of the employer), workers are often well aware of the hazards they face and tend to have ideas and suggestions on how best to control the risks arising from these hazards.

Training package on workplace risk assessment and management

This manual proposes a simple, straightforward and easy-to-use approach to risk assessment and management. It contains easy-to-use material, with worked examples of risk assessment and a ready-to-use risk assessment form/template that can be used in the workplace.

A 5-step guide for employers, workers and their representatives on conducting workplace risk assessments

This guide provides a straightforward method to conduct risk assessment and management, easily applicable in most enterprises, in particular small and medium sized enterprises. The guide illustrates the 5 steps to assess and manage the risks in the workplace, and includes a risk assessment template that can be used for recording the findings in a simple and readily accessible format.

Specific risks