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Working Paper 20

Systematic Management of Occupational Health and Safety

Liz Bluff
Researcher, National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, Regulatory Institutions Network, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University

September, 2003

About the Centre
The National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation is a research centre within the Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet), in the Research School of Social Sciences, at the Australian National University. The Centre is funded by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC). The aims of the Centre are to: • conduct and facilitate high quality empirical and policy-focused research into OHS regulation, consistent with the National OHS Strategy; • facilitate and promote groups of collaborating researchers to conduct empirical and policy-focused research into OHS regulation in each of the States and Territories; • facilitate the integration of research into OHS regulation with research findings in other areas of regulation; • produce regular reports on national and international developments in OHS regulation; • develop the research skills of young OHS researchers; and • assist in the development of the skills and capacities of staff of the NOHSC Office. In order to achieve these aims the Centre undertakes research, supports a consortium of OHS regulation researchers in Australia, assists in the development of skills and capacities of staff of NOHSC staff and collaborates in research programs with other Australian and international researchers and research centres. Address for correspondence: National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) 1st Floor Garden Wing, University House The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200 Ph (02) 6125 1514 Fax (02) 6125 1507 Email nrcohsr@anu.edu.au Web http://ohs.anu.edu.au

Acknowledgement The author very gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Centre Director, Professor Richard Johnstone, for reading, discussing and commenting on an earlier draft of this working paper.

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Introduction

There is increasing interest in systematic approaches to the management of occupational health and safety (OHSM), as an organisational strategy for the ongoing prevention of work-related injury, ill health and death. Central to the OHSM strategy is effective risk management1; that is, the systematic identification of hazards, assessment and control of risks, evaluation and review of risk control measures to ensure that they are effectively implemented and maintained. In turn, effective risk management requires that responsibility is designated, that those involved are competent and resourced to determine and implement the required preventive measures, that workers are actively involved, and that procedures are documented and repeatable. Thus a systematic approach to OHSM requires the implementation of core structures and processes and action by key players. Although the management of OHS originated early in the 20th century with the US “Safety First Movement”, the current wave of systematic OHSM began in the late 1980s (Frick and Wren, 2000: 21; Hale and Hovden, 1998: 129-131; Nielsen, 2000: 104-108). As some of the technical aspects of OHS became better known, debate turned to why these measures were not implemented, especially in the context of some significant disasters in high risk installations. The latter could not be adequately explained on the basis of technical failure or human error alone. Contemporary OHSM evolved from a concern to address the organisational and management aspects of OHS performance. (For a review of factors shaping the development of the contemporary approach to OHSM see Frick and Wren, 2000: 24-25 and Hale and Hovden, 1998: 132-135). A crucial influence on the development of OHSM was the OHS regulatory reforms introduced in many...
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