Let me start by apologizing for my British English…but I am what I am and still learning the local lingo.
OK so on the face of it, it sounds like a pretty simple and straight forward question to which most of us would probably say “yes”.
Whilst in practice many of us will often interchange the terms when referring to our general safety practices, there is a distinct difference that needs to be recognized, particularly for those of you who currently have or hope to achieve COR certification.
There are lots of varying opinions on the terminology and I have tried to simplify the answer by breaking it down into smaller parts and hopefully putting it into some sort of context in relation to the activities of many of our members.
WorkSafeBC define the difference as follows:
An occupational health and safety (OHS) management system encompasses more than just your health and safety program. It includes health and safety policies, systems, standards, and records, and involves incorporating your health and safety activities and program into your other business processes. Having an effective management system improves your ability to continuously identify hazards and control risks in your workplace.
So what does this mean to most of us…
A health and safety program might be best described as a plan of action designed with the primary purpose of preventing injuries and illness in the workplace and ensure compliance with occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation or other relevant regulations. A good example of this might be your National Safety Code (NSC) Safety Program, which sets out, amongst other things, your policies and procedures for ensuring the safety of your drivers and your fleet.
In contrast a health and safety management systems is a tool that helps to ensure that your organisation has a process for integrating its safety program(s) into the wider business of the organisation.
Plan, do, check and act are the key steps of an effective HSMS and help achieve a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management, hence treating occupational health & safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a standalone system.
Explained in a slightly simpler way a HSMS system is going to take your operational requirements (move the goods or products), your financial requirements (make a profit), your NSC requirements (logistics), your health and safety requirements (keep all your workers safe), and your corporate strategies (business planning), and make safety an integral part of them.