One of the ongoing discussions about OH&S management systems revolves around what it is exactly that the organization should be accomplishing. In “standards speak” this is referred to as the “intended outcomes” of the OH&S management system.

In my conversations with professionals in the field, there seems to be a consensus that the overall goal – “intended outcome” – of an OH&S management system is either protecting the health of workers or worker safety. How this goal is phrased, in terms of health or safety, seems to depend primarily on whether one views oneself as an “occupational health professional” (i.e. industrial hygienist) or a “safety professional.”

Interestingly, the goal of an OH&S management system is often articulated in the negative, rather than the positive, as “prevention of worker injury and illness.”

Why is this important?

It is important because how the goal is phrased often drives what outcomes are measured and tracked by the organization.

If the goal is prevention of worker injury and illness, then the outcome metrics selected focus almost exclusively on injury and illness rates.

For more about the use of management system metrics, check out my article in the November 2014 issue of the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s Synergist –  Selecting Management System Metrics.

Reprinted by permission from