Image of worker working safely.jpg

Safe systems

As Covid-19 lockdown measures ease, we’re facing workplace challenges that require us to modify or completely change how and when tasks are carried out. In some countries these are not too unfamiliar but in others, the restrictions, the physical and emotional environment and the behavioural changes are quite different.

In the workplace, we have systems for managing safety and health. These can range from being informal or immature to being formal, documented and well established. Regardless of the degree of maturity, systems, processes and procedures need to be reviewed to ensure they remain suitable to the workplace and sufficient to address the risk profile of the organisation. Covid-19, and the significant degree of change it has brought, is a legitimate trigger for review of OSH management systems.

The five key Elements of Management System 

IOSH Model for OSH Management Systems

No two organisations will have the same content and specific detail contained within their management system. The details need to be bespoke to that organisation, sometimes to an individual site and maybe even to a particular team. However, the core framework and intent will be common to most.

The table below captures some elements that will typically need to be reviewed as a result of internationally acknowledged approaches to combatting the spread and the effects of Covid-19.

It is not intended to be exhaustive and not every consideration will be applicable, but it is a starting point.

Policy and strategy 

Possible impact of Covid-19


Business direction – what has been the impact of the virus on the strategic direction, financial stability and/or the resources available for on-going viability of the OSH strategy, vision and goals?

Have products and/or services changed?

Is the protection of core business a singular priority?

  • Policy statement of Intent
  • Improvement Planning; targets and milestones
  • Leadership commitments and focus
  • Worker expectations and degree of engagement



Possible impact of Covid-19


Have facilities/site reduced/increased?

Have leadership resources been affected?

Has the organisational design (OD) changed?

Leaders may be under pressure to “perform” in uncertain, complex and ambiguous circumstances. Standards for good leadership practices should not be eroded. This is the time to demonstrate integrity and fairness, building workers confidence and trust in the leadership team

  • Occupational health resource, including mental health and well being
  • Training Resources and planning
  • OSH professional team/skill set
  • Leadership structure & behaviours
    • Maintaining good leadership practices
    • Maintaining trust and integrity

Communication strategy – frequency & style


Risk Management & controls 

Possible impact of Covid-19


Legislative and guidance requirements for safeguarding individuals in the workplace need to be adhered to (disease detection, prevention and control);

  • Sickness/absence
  • Shielded/vulnerable individuals
  • Distancing requirements
  • Non-essential travel/transport limitations
  • Increased hygiene requirements – both personal and workplace tools/equipment, etc
  • Restrictions on Public/customer-facing activities

Nature of the organisation - exposure potential & susceptibility of workers

Impact on worker attitudes and values (behaviours);

  • Engagement strategy
  • Re-introduction to workplace
  • Critical skill erosion

The OSH culture within an organisation is greatly influenced by Leadership behaviour – their response to Covid-19 could affect the OSH climate and potentially the business reputation as a good employer in the community

  • Horizon scanning – adherence to new/evolving legislation, standards and guidance
  • Revisit Risk Assessment and analysis for
    • Inherent risk
    • Specified risk
      • Fire Assessments (post workplace modifications/changes)
      • CoSHH (hygiene – new/additional substances)
    • Operational;
      • Workplace/enviro
      • Task
    • Reputational risk
    • Financial risk
    • Resource risk
  • Identify & implement controls (including spec Government guidance)
  • Procedures for enhanced hygiene regime and facilities
  • Policy and procedure for PPE/RPE;
    • Risk based – Task driven v worker confidence/virus control
  • Arrangements for ensuring distancing measures – physical and/or temporal
  • Site accessibility/restrictions
  • Plant & equipment – maintenance/PPMs/Insp’ns
  • Schedules and arrangements for Statutory Inspections, testing and licensing
  • Inbound deliveries – driver safety and welfare
  • Outbound deliveries – consult with customers destination/drop-offs
  • Authority to travel - Job required travel (cross border, modes of transport)
  • Change management
  • BCM/Emergency response plans, incl key role training
  • Procedures for Right to refuse/whistleblowing
  • Worker behaviour;
  • Increased need for effective communications, promotional activities, behavioural nudges and positive messaging


Monitoring & measuring 

Possible impact of Covid-19


Key aspects of virus control measure effectiveness is critical to sustain operations

Active monitoring

  • Fixed; frequencies
  • Ad-hoc

Reactive response tracking

It is critical to understand when controls cease to be effective or fail – understanding the response to control failures, including investigations

There is a need to look outside of your organisation too. It is important to keep pace with developments at a global, national and local level, as well as within your own industrial sector.

  • Ensure routine internal metrics reflect leadership priorities/concerns;
    • KPI suite
    • Sick/Abs
    • Wellbeing (EAP, other indicators?)
  • Compliance monitoring to new/amended controls
    • Tours/Inspections etc
  • Assess impact on OSH culture - Climate condition monitoring/KPIs
  • Learning from events/other organisations
    • Accident/Incident investigation; inclusive of ill-health, mental well-being
  • Review Escalation processes for information to senior managers
  • Externally, keep informed. Monitor the “mood”
    • Fluid position being taken by governments, setting a baseline
    • Monitor ‘sector best practice’ as it develops
    • Consider peer organisations’ benchmarking

Stakeholders, particularly customers / clients (public?)



Possible impact of Covid-19


There may be changes to reporting requirements;

  • Internal
  • External

Remember to identify critical information to better inform Policy/strategy

Keep OSH strategy fluid and responsive.

  • Board – Governance requirements
  • Shareholder interest (and other stakeholders)
  • Financial reporting
  • Non-financial reporting

Organisation Annual Reporting