Risk Management Requires ACTION

| July 25, 2012

Although planning is an important part of an occupational health and safety management system, planning alone will not result in improved safety performance unless what is planned is actually done.

There is often a huge gulf between what an organization says about safety and what it actually does.  It is not unusual for the OH&S Policy statement to commit an organization to best-in-class performance when the day-to-day reality is not even close. This is the gap between intention and results.

Implementing a functioning OHSMS means making hard decisions about how an organization is going to use the resources it has available – time, money and infrastructure (e.g. software).  Even if an organization has unlimited funding, It is not possible to actually do everything immediately.  It still takes time, personnel and, very often, infrastructure improvements and organizational culture changes to accomplish lasting improvement in OH&S performance.

Prioritization of what will be done right now is what is critical. 

Saying you are going to take action “someday” does not manage risk.  Writing procedures that set out tasks that cannot actually be completed because the personnel needed to do them are not available does not manage risk. Implementing inspection programs without having the resources available to track and fix the problems that are identified does not manage risk.  Managing risk requires action.

This is why section 4.3.1 of OHSAS 18001 requires that the organization identify the controls that are needed to reduce OH&S risks to acceptable levels and then implement and maintain these controls within the OHSMS.

Obviously, this means implementing the selected control measures.  It also means having “checking” processes in place to ensure that the controls are both maintained (e.g. continuing to be done over time) and actually effective in reducing OH&S risk to acceptable levels.

Many organizations miss this “checking” component associated with implementing OHSAS 18001; yet, it is critical to managing risk. For example –

  • Safety lockouts may fail – yet no one notices or reports the failure since it is “not their job.”
  • Inspections or preventive maintenance is scheduled and tracked – but not actually completed when scheduled because production equipment cannot be shut down.
  • Facility inspections are no longer done – individuals assume that since no one ever reviews the results why bother continuing to do them.
  • Procedures continue to be followed – but the actions being taken do not address the activities or conditions that actually create the real risks (e.g. having two processes that inspect vehicle tires but none that replace windshield wipers).

Yes – plan.  But don’t stop there.  You then need to act and check that the actions being taken actually work.  If they don’t, revise your plans and try again.  In other words – Plan, Do, Check, Act.

For additional information about the importance of resources in an OHSAS 18001 management system, check out these previous blog posts –

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)

Category: OHSMS Implementation

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