Safety is NOT Free

| July 22, 2009

Bottom line – an effective occupational health and safety management system costs money. 

There are those that argue that safety – like quality – is free (in line with the classic book by Philip Crosby – Quality is Free).  The premise being that, in the long run, effective safety programs save money and add business value.  Unfortunately, this premise is difficult to prove.  This argument strikes me as similar to the “free market” argument that financial markets don’t need to be regulated because they will regulate themselves.  Perhaps that is true in textbooks, but rarely – if ever – in practice.

To order Crosby’s book from Amazon – click here Quality Is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain

OHSAS 18001 specifically requires that top management determine the need for and ensure the availability of the resources essential to maintain the established OH&S management system and prevent workplace injuries and ill health (Section 4.4.1 of OHSAS 18002).

In this context, providing the “essential” OH&S resources is not simply a matter of money.  Top management also needs to determine that there is sufficient staffing with the necessary competency and skills (i.e. the necessary human resources).  In additional, top management needs to ensure that the required organizational infrastructure and technology resources are in place to ensure that the OHSMS is implemented and maintained.

Besides the obvious “lack of money” problem that plagues many OHS programs, there are other resource issues that commonly arise in occupational health and safety management systems –

  • Lack of human resources – Even if an organization has sufficient OH&S funding, it is not uncommon to find organizational staffing models and hiring freezes in place that limit the availability of the “person-hours” available to less than that which is really needed to complete the tasks required.
  • Obsolete technology, particularly software – It is not uncommon for funding – as well as IT support – to be nonexistent for maintaining the specialized software solutions that were put in place when the OHS programs were initially established.  As a result, the software soon becomes a hindrance to performance rather than an effective management system tool. 
  • Lack of PMs – In many cases, significant money is spent to put controls in place (e.g. machine guarding) but there is no funding allocated for the ongoing inspection and maintenance of these controls to ensure that they continue to be effective in addressing OHS hazards and risks.

Only if top management is involved in ensuring that resources are specifically allocated to OH&S, will your OHSMS be successful.

 © ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)

Category: OHSMS Implementation

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