Systems Thinking – How could Systems Thinking and Systematic Management Coexist in Occupational Health & Safety

22 Jun 2020
11:30

Systems Thinking – How could Systems Thinking and Systematic Management Coexist in Occupational Health & Safety

A systems approach to Occupational Health & Safety Management (OHSM) can arguably address the emergent complexity of organisations within the post-modern industrial age. This approach acknowledges that entities consist of people, equipment, tools, processes and policies that are all interconnected and interrelated and affect outcomes of any business. However, although several internationally recognised standards for OHSM systems draw on the paradigms of systematic management and systems thinking, the extent to which these two approaches can co-exist and how their symbiosis can be realised has not been visibly articulated. In our work, we reviewed relevant literature, and we reflected on the paths systematic management could embrace systems thinking from a socio-technical perspective and vice versa with a focus on OHSM. Based on the degree to which variability is welcome and controlled, we mapped the possible combinations of these two paradigms and translated their various blends into the ways an organisation generates and establishes objectives and procedures. Our premise is that there is no golden rule and that systems thinking and systematic management must be combined with caution and an understanding of the inherent limitations of each approach and the context in which they are introduced.