“You Will Be Assimilated.”

| June 24, 2008

One of the interesting, and challenging, issues in developing an OH&S management system is the tension between developing detailed work instructions versus relying on competent individuals to perform critical OH&S tasks.

On one hand, there is the view that all tasks, especially important ones, need to be reduced to written work instructions.  After all, the person performing these tasks might “win the lottery” and never return to work.  On the other hand, there is the view that it is more important to have competent people performing critical tasks.  The example — “If you were going to have brain surgery, would you want a surgeon who is competent or an individual who is simply following a set of written work instructions?”

This conflict of views was recently brought into focus for me.  A senior manager in a company suggested that the work being done by the OH&S staff should be reduced to “work instructions that anyone can follow” for entry into the company’s preventive maintenance program.

This suggestion made me stop and ask myself the following questions —

Can OH&S professionals be replaced by a preventive maintenance (PM) program?

OH&S professionals are not the first, or only, ones that face being replaced by computer programs.  Accountants have faced it with the growth and acceptance of tax preparation software.  Lawyers have faced it with do-it-yourself wills and contracts programs.  Doctors are facing it with improved medical diagnosis software.  Every knowledge worker is facing the prospect that at least some aspect of their “professional practice” will be replaced by a computerized software system.  Therefore, at least in part, OH&S professionals likely can be replaced by a PM program.

Should they be?

This question is much more difficult to answer. It brings me back to the title of this post — “You will be assimilated.”  As Star Trek fans know, this quote is the message sent by the Borg when they targeted a new species for integration into “the collective.”  Once in the collective, individual independence was lost. Conformance replaced creativity.

The fundamental issue in determining whether professionals should be replaced by computer programs is whether there is value in the “independent creativity” that cannot be assimilated into a computerized system.  At least for now, I am much more comfortable relying on competent OH&S professionals than on work instructions entered into a PM program.

What do you think?

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2008)

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Category: OHSMS Implementation, Training & Communication

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