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RR506 - Defining best practice in corporate occupational health and safety governance

The Health and Safety Commission’s ‘Revitalising Health and Safety’ Strategy, published in 2000, makes explicit reference to the board and directors’ role in driving improvements in health and safety performance within both public and private sector organisations. HSC/E considers it essential that company directors take responsibility for this within their organisations. However, evidence suggests that in many sectors there is still a lack of engagement at the highest levels in UK organisations – and that directors are still unclear as to their role in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) leadership and in ensuring that risks to OHS within their business are properly controlled.

This project has been commissioned to help the understanding of how OHS fits within more traditional Corporate Governance and the benefits an integrated approach can bring. The authors have deliberately sought best practice in OHS governance across UK industry, to better understand the key elements of good practice. They have investigated the roles of the board, both individually and collectively, and explored the overlaps between good practice governance of OHS and the more traditionally accepted standards in Corporate Governance.

The report presents an outline framework for what, in the authors’ view, Best Practice in OHS Governance looks like. This framework consists of seven basic principles covering: director competence; director roles and responsibilities; culture, standards and values, strategic implications; performance management, internal controls; organisational structure. The report also suggests expanding on the existing guidance on directors’ responsibilities for OHS, presented in INDG343, to include some of these elements.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Insight Investment. Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the HSE, Insight Investment and those organisations and individuals who contributed to this work.

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Updated 2010-03-19