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“An OHSMS is the integrated set of organizational elements involved in the continuous cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation, and continual improvement, directed toward the abatement of occupational hazards in the workplace. Such elements include, but are not limited to, organizations’ OHS- relevant policies, goals and objectives, decision-making structures and practices, technical resources, accountability structures and practices, communication practices, hazard identification practices, training practices, hazard controls, quality assurance practices, evaluation practices, and organizational learning practices.”

2.5 Voluntary and mandatory OHSMS initiatives Voluntary OHSMSs are developed and disseminated through a variety of mechanisms. Expert organizations develop and distribute information on standards and best-practice guidelines. Other organizations, both non-profit and for-profit, provide technical expertise or a certifying mechanism to organizations wanting to meet one of these standards. Government- affiliated agencies or insurance carriers sometimes offer incentives to organizations that adopt OHSMSs.

Mandatory OHSMSs arise from government legislation and its enforcement through inspections, fines, etc. Voluntary OHSMSs arise through private enterprise, employer groups, government and its agencies, insurance carriers, professional organizations, standards associations and are not directly linked to regulatory requirements.

The following section gives a brief overview of some of the better known voluntary and mandatory initiatives.

In general, the voluntary OHSMSs, especially those marketed through commercial industries, target large companies. They are characterized by being more thoroughly specified but are too complex for the majority of employers (Frick and Wren, 2000). Voluntary OHSMS schemes marketed through public agencies are targeted not only on large companies but also on smaller companies (Frick and Wren, 2000). These schemes accordingly either involve simpler OHSMSs or have a menu of options, including simple ones, for companies of different sizes or at different stages of OHSMS development.

In general, mandatory OHSMSs are simpler in terms of what they require of organizations, since they are intended for all or most workplaces, including small workplaces.

Institute for Work & Health

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