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2. Introduction

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board committed funds for a four-year systematic review initiative at the Institute for Work & Health, starting in 2004. The products of these reviews are best-evidence syntheses of research on injury prevention and the topics for review are developed through consultations with stakeholders. This review represents one of the two systematic reviews1 on injury prevention produced by the Institute for Work & Health in 2004.

2.1 Aims of the review Occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMSs) have developed considerably over the last 20 years. There are now more OHSMSs in place and available than ever before. Yet little is known about the effectiveness of these systems on employee health and safety and associated economic outcomes.

This systematic review of the literature was undertaken to assess the research evidence on the effectiveness of OHSMSs. Many countries including Canada are in the process of developing management standards for occupational health and safety, so a better understanding of the impact of these systems is timely.

A systematic literature review uses strict, explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant studies on a certain topic. This review initially set out to investigate three key issues:

  • What is the relative effectiveness of mandatory and voluntary OHSMSs on employee health and safety and associated economic outcomes?

  • What facilitators and barriers are there to the adoption and the effectiveness of OHSMSs?

  • What is the evidence on the cost-effectiveness of OHSMSs?

These questions were developed through formal and informal consultations with representatives of employers, labour, and Ontario’s public sector prevention system.

A secondary aim of the review was to characterize the content and methodology of existing research literature on OHSMSs. The purpose here was to identify gaps and weaknesses in the literature, which could help guide future research in this area.

1 The other systematic review is about the effectiveness of participatory ergonomics interventions (Cole et al. 2004).

Effectiveness of Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems: A Systematic Review


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