With the assistance of the IRS Steering Committee we produced a description of the Internal Responsibility System. The roles and responsibilities of the contributors to the IRS , as well as a number of processes important for a successful IRS , are all set out in this description. The model of the IRS we developed is consistent with previous descriptions in the Ham and Burkett Reports. The questionnaires administered in the trial audit and our interpretation of the responses were based on the description.

Description of the IRS

The IRS is a system, within an organization, where everyone has direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of his or her job. It does not matter who or where the person is in the organization, they achieve health and safety in a way that suits the kind of work they do. Each person takes initiative on health and safety issues and works to solve problems and make improvements on an on-going basis. They do this both singly and co-operatively with others. It is one of the personal responsibilities of a company President to ensure that the entire system of direct responsibility for health and safety within a company is established, promoted and improved over time. Successful implementation of the IRS should result in progressively longer intervals between accidents or work-related illnesses.

In addition to those with direct responsibility, a number of people and agencies have contributive responsibility for health and safety. Within any organization, the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) has a key contributive part:

  • in health and safety in general, and
  • in making the IRS work well.

The organization's health and safety stafffootnote 3 also play a contributive role.

Assisting the IRS from outside the organization are the Safe Workplace Associations (e.g. MASHA), the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), Unionsfootnote 4 and others. The MLTSD may exercise direct authority to resolve health and safety problems in the workplace, principally through its inspectors issuing orders. Listed in Table A are the direct and contributive components.

Keys to a Successful IRS

  1. Everyone must have a sincere wish to prevent accidents and illnesses;
  2. Everyone must accept that accidents and illnesses have causes that can be eliminated or greatly reduced;
  3. Everyone must accept that risk can be continually reduced, so that the time between accidents and illnesses get longer and longer;
  4. Everyone must accept that health and safety is an essential part of doing his or her work (health and safety is not an extra, it is part of doing the job);
  5. Every person must have a clear understanding of what he/she is responsible for; what he/she can do to change matters; and when things must be done;
  6. Every person must be regularly asked to explain what they have done to ensure health and safety on the job and in the workplace;
  7. Everyone must have a clear understanding of their own skill, ability and limitations, and should have the capacity to carry out their responsibilities;
  8. Everyone must attempt to avoid conflict when trying to reduce risk;
  9. As an individual, each person must go beyond just complying with health and safety rules and standards, and strive to improve work processes to reduce risk;
  10. When an individual cannot reduce risk by him/herself, then they must cooperate with others to go beyond just complying with health and safety rules and standards, and strive to improve work processes to reduce risk;
  11. Everyone must understand the IRS process, believe in it, and take steps to make it effective at all levels in the organization; and
  12. No one should be fearful of reprisals when using IRS processes.


  • footnote[3] Back to paragraph These include the Health and Safety Co-ordinator; Hygienist; and Nurse, etc.
  • footnote[4] Back to paragraph The members of the Union, and their representatives who are employees of the employer are "internal" to the employer's organization. The Union will also have health and safety resources located "external" to the employer's organization.