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Is it HR’s job to manage OH&S?

August 8 2013 - The simple fact is that, in many organizations, Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) has become a Human Resources (HR) responsibility. In an era where corporate social responsibility has grown to come to include health and safety, how can HR fulfill its role in building an effective OH&S system?

Some organizations, which may have come late to the realization of the importance of OH&S, are defining it as an HR responsibility rather than creating a separate OH&S structure within the organization.

Getting Started

By Heinrich Beukes, B-Tech, CRSP

Successful organizations know the importance of a public commitment to corporate social responsibility. The health, safety and well-being of employees are critical part of that commitment. Without them even the most carefully crafted strategy will fail.

More than simply living up to the letter of the law there are several benefits to having a comprehensive OH&S system in place which those responsible for health and safety must also embrace if they are to succeed at the multiple goals they are being asked to achieve.

These benefits include potential increases in service quality, productivity, improved employee morale and a decrease in all costs associated with injuries and illnesses.

Today, more than ever, Manufacturing Organizations face an overwhelmingly complex situation trying to comply with legal requirements.

This increased complexity results from the increasing role of governments, government agencies, improving technology, increasing health and safety awareness of staff and communities, increased human rights awareness and economic constraints.

Five Essential Steps
  1. Developing a Health and Safety Policy

    An organization's OH&S policy is a statement of principles and commitments that form the backbone of the supporting health and safety program. The employer’s value of worker health and safety is the cornerstone of a successful safety system.

    The policy should include aspects such as:

    • A commitment to worker health and safety
    • Overall expectations, goals and objectives of the health and safety program
    • A commitment to comply with all relevant legislation as a minimum standard
    • An outline of responsibilities for all levels of employees and accountability statements to support the responsibilities

    The policy should be signed, dated and prominently posted (by the employer) in the workplace.

  2. Developing defined goals or objectives

    It is considered a best practice to involve the JHSC and workers in setting Health and Safety goals and objectives for the workplace.

    Health and Safety should not be seen as an additional task, it is simply the way work is done. Goals should be measurable and achievable, contain time frames and clearly state who in the organization is responsible and accountable. Goals should also be written and posted in the workplace.

  3. Developing clearly defined Roles and Responsibilities

    The workplace parties: workers, employers and supervisors have an obligation to know and comply with the legislation that applies to their workplace.

    These roles and responsibilities are defined in the Workers Compensation Act, Division 3 - General Duties of Employers, Workers and Others

  4. Developing a set of OH&S Programs specific to the organization

    The first step in developing a set of programs for an organization is to recognize the existing hazards workers face on the job. This can be accomplished through a thorough “GAP Analysis” offered by FIOSA-MIOSA. It includes a review of existing records, an evaluation of the work processes and conditions as well as a review of existing programs. The employer and the JHSC should participate in this assessment.

    Legislation in British Columbia provides some good guidelines as to the minimum requirements of an OH&S Program. These can be found in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, Part 3 Roles and Responsibilities: (

    Usually it is not possible to immediately implement all of the required programs at once. The second step; therefore, is to prioritize the need for each program. This is based on the risk associated with the hazard to be controlled by the specific Health and Safety program.

    The third step is the development of the content for each program. Each program is unique and should be specific to the organization. Common elements typically include: A policy, program goals, specific work procedures, assigned roles and responsibilities, accountability statements, orientation and training, communication strategies, and a program evaluation to ensure continuous improvement.

  5. Evaluating the system

    Manufacturing Organizations are continuously changing, as are developments in OH&S.

    A regular review of each part of the established programs by management, workers and the JHSC is one way to determine the continued effectiveness and appropriateness of the programs. The need for the development of new programs should also be continually assessed. For example, the introduction of new legislation, changes in the type of products, chemicals, processes or equipment may require the development of additional programs.

  6. OH&S System Implementation

    Successful implementation of the system requires that specific responsibilities are assigned to individuals, with target dates for implementation firmly established and monitored. During the implementation stage, communication and training are crucial to the success of the program, secondary to the visible affirmation by the employer that worker health and safety is a primary value of the organization.

    It is important that the program is maintained. Proper record keeping and control measures are required to ensure the continued success of the system.

    For further information on development or implementation your OH&S system, please contact your regional Safety Advisor via our web site,


Web sites:

BC Workers Compensation Act

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - OH&S Answers:

The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOH&SC) - Australia - Getting started with OH&S:

WorkSafeBC OH&SR Part 3 Rights and Responsibilities


Bird, F. E. Jr., Germain, G. L., Practical Loss Control Leadership. Det Norske Veritas (USA) Inc., Georgia, 1996.

Developing Occupational Health and Safety Programs - Resource Manual, HCHSA, Toronto, Ontario, 2003.

About the author

Heinrich Beukes

Heinrich Beukes CRSP, FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance of BC
Director of Services and Resources

Heinrich was born and raised in South Africa. He obtained a National Diploma in Public Health in 1992 and a Bachelors degree in Environmental Health from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 1995.

He worked for one of the largest transportation companies in the world - Transnet Ltd. as a Risk Professional. He immigrated to Canada in 2001 and worked as a Regional Safety Consultant for the Ontario Safety Association for Community and Healthcare until 2006. He then accepted the position of Health and Safety Manager at the Molson Vancouver Brewery.

Heinrich has more than 15 years of experience in Safety Management, Occupational Hygiene and Environmental Management. He specializes in program auditing and safety management system development as well as program implementation. He has several national and international accreditations and holds a CRSP designation and is a CSSE member. He has written several published technical Health and Safety articles for the Healthcare Industry and worked on various provincial initiatives with the WSIB and the Ministry of Labour in Ontario.

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