What value in HSMS?

By NZISM Secretary


Kia ora koutou members and supporters of NZISM. Chris Peace (Lecturer in Occupational Health and Safety at Victoria University of Wellington) recently shared an interesting article on research undertaken by Harvard Business School which looked at whether there is any value in having a health and safety management system standard in place. It considers application of OHSAS 18001 and looks at the safety performance of both adopters and non-adopters.

There were two interesting outcomes from this paper:

  1. that companies who undertook certification to a health and safety management standard already had safer workplaces than those that were not certified, and
  2. that certification supports improvements in health and safety with a resultant decline in injury and illness outcomes.
What I also took from the discussion was the link between having a health and safety management system in place and regular assessments by a third party on adherence to the system - and, of course, implications to the company if the system is not being maintained.
So what does that mean for us in New Zealand then? It certainly raises some points for discussion. If we look at the two main management system focused products in the market - ISO 45001:2018 and the ACC Accredited Employer Programme (AEP) - does this mean that we should be supporting / pushing this more as health and safety employees and consultants? What are the implications if SafePlus is adopted as an alternative to the current ACC AEP tool given the significant number of employees whose employers are in the programme? And what about the smaller organisations? Do we start flagging Q-Safe as an option for them, and should we be more stringently requiring certification as part of the procurement process?
It would be nice to have more research on this, particularly in a New Zealand context (Masters anyone?), as it would help frame up nationally whether we should be more certification focused or whether our other options such as SafePlus give us the safety performance improvement we really need. Or is it both? Personally, I don’t think we have all the data we need to make an informed decision.
Certainly, the paper is a great starting point for some robust discussion - it can be read here.
If you wish to contact me, you are welcome to do so by email at president@nzism.org
Ngā mihi,

President, NZISM

Reference Do Management System Standards Indicate Superior Performance? Evidence from the OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Standard Kala Viswanathan Matthew S. Johnson Michael W. Toffel. Working Paper 22-042, Harvard Business School (2021).