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6. Conclusions and Recommendations

This systematic review found a relatively small quantity of published, peer- reviewed evidence involving OHSMSs, despite the fact that reviewers screened 4807 studies drawn from seven databases representing diverse disciplines. A qualitative synthesis of the available research was used, because of the small number of studies and the heterogeneity of the data they included.

The review’s synthesis of the evidence showed consistently favourable results:

  • Studies of voluntary OHSMS interventions reported desirable outcomes, including a more developed OHSMS as assessed by a validation audit, better safety climate, increased hazard reporting by employees, more organizational action taken on OHS issues, and decreases in workers’ compensation premiums.

  • Studies on mandatory OHSMS interventions also indicated consistently positive effects. These included: a more developed OHSMS; increased HES awareness; improved employee perceptions of the physical working environment and of the psychosocial environment; increased workers’ participation in HES activities; decreases in loss-time injury rates; and increases in workplace productivity.

However, all of the studies included in the best-evidence synthesis had moderate limitations regarding their methodologies. The studies were seldom sufficiently rigorous to give great confidence in the reported findings. The most common limitations were: simple research designs (e.g., lack of comparison group, use of cross-sectional designs); lack of consideration or control of confounding; lack of information about the sample; use of small samples and convenience samples. Their limitations also prevent certainty about their applicability to other workplaces.

In conclusion, there is insufficient evidence in the published, peer- reviewed literature on the effectiveness of OHSMSs to make recommendations either in favour of or against OHSMSs. This is not to judge these systems as ineffective or undesirable; it is merely to say that it would be incautious to judge either way in the present state of our research knowledge.

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


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