Category: Resources & Tools

Paper is NOT obsolete

I have to admit it – I like paper.

This can be a scary admission since today everything digital is considered better.  At times, there seems to be almost a mass hysteria that our paper pads must be replaced by iPads.

There are, of course, advantages to electronic data management.  At the very least, there is the physical space you save when you eliminate the storage of paper records.  Then, there is the immediate availability of even very arcane information with a simple web search.

But there are downsides to electronic data management as well.  These downsides include catastrophic data loss when your computer crashes and the limitations associated with difficult-to-read screens, lack of reliable power supplies and web access failure.

Today, what is needed is a life cycle assessment approach to information management – with both paper and electronic devices playing their part.

In my view, paper is still the hands-down best choice for many of the data collection activities associated with occupational health and safety management system processes in industrial environments.


Reason #1 – Paper doesn’t require training or specialized knowledge to use.

We all know how to write.

The same is not true for using electronic devices.   Although manufacturers have attempted to make their products more intuitive, there is still a learning curve associated with every different device.

Filling in paper forms is something most of us have been doing all of our lives.

Reason #2 – Paper is more robust and unlikely to blow the place up.

Most electronic devices are fragile and, unless specially designed, capable of initiating a fire or explosion.  Dropping an electronic device into a puddle or pond likely means it is destroyed.

Particularly for field use, paper works.

One of the best products for wet environments (such as Florida where I live) is Rite in the Rain all-weather writing paper.   As long as you use a pencil or waterproof pen, your form or log book will not be destroyed even if you drop it in standing water. Neat!

Reason #3 – Paper can be “smart.”

Paper can have “metadata” associated with it. It can have digital watermarking, bar codes and RFID tags. It can “talk to” electronic devices such as bar code readers and cell phones.  The most ubiquitous example of smart paper is the identification badges that can open doors and keep track of your location.

Paper forms can be intelligently designed so that when they are scanned, information is uploaded directly into a database. You can have the benefit of paper for data collection and the benefit of computerization for data management.

Paper is increasing a transient medium used to display and transport information that is developed and maintained electronically.

Reason #4 – Paper can be secure.

When information is collected and maintained on a piece of paper there is only one copy and it can be physically secured.  A piece of paper cannot be hacked and sent offshore to information pirates.

Reason #5 – Paper helps you think.

There is a reason for whiteboards and flipcharts in conference rooms.  Putting ideas “down on paper” helps us collaborate, form ideas and identify connections.

So before you exchange your paper pad for an electronic tablet, think about what you want to accomplish.  Consider whether paper may still be the better choice for at least some part of the data management process – at least where you need a human interface.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)
May 31, 2012 | 0 Comments More

ISO 19011 & Audit History

Management system audits are an integral part of every management system.  All of the management system specification standards – including ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 – require that an organization establish and implement an internal audit program.

I have been involved in auditing for over 30 years.

In the 1980’s – I conducted EHS audits world-wide for Bristol-Myers as part of the corporate audit team.

In the 1990’s – I started the decade reviewing a wide range of audit and assessment reports.  As an attorney for U.S. EPA, I evaluated assessments for the purposes of undertaking enforcement actions.  Then, as an attorney in private practice, I helped companies establish internal audit programs.  I also used audit reports prepared by others for advising clients on mergers, acquisitions, commercial loans and property development activities.  In 1997, I shifted my focus to assisting organizations with management system implementation and became a certified EMS Lead Auditor in 1999.

In the 2000’s – I turned my focus to management system audits and the development of audit standards.  I developed and taught numerous auditor training courses – from Lead Auditor Training to customized internal auditor training courses covering multiple disciplines (quality, environmental, OS&G, food safety, security etc.).  I also helped develop international auditing standards and participated as one of the U.S. Experts in the revision of ISO 19011.

I am pleased to announce that I have launched a new website that is based on my extensive experience in auditing:

This website focuses on providing useful information and resources to help auditors and audit program managers develop expertise in management system auditing.  In the blog associated with this site, I will be answering questions about establishing an audit program and providing insight into the intent underlying the language of the ISO standards that set out auditing requirements.

Click here to check out the initial post on this new site – Evidence-Based Auditing.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)
May 23, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Safety Culture – The Power of Habit

Last week I was browsing in an airport bookstore – looking for something to read on the plane. 

I found something truly amazing – at least to me.  A mainstream business book, a best-seller in fact, that had an entire chapter developed to worker safety!

Why was I amazed? 

Lately, it seems the only mention of worker safety is in the context of reducing OSHA regulations in order to unburden business.  Safety is typically demonized as a business burden not touted as a benefit.

Yet here was a book that made the convincing argument that focusing on worker safety was the “keystone habit” that drove the economic turnaround of a multi-billion dollar company.  Wow.

This book – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – focuses on explaining why habits exist, why they are so powerful and how they can be changed.  It provides advice that can be used for changing personal habits – such as overeating chocolate chip cookies.  But it has more. What elevates it above a typical self-help book is that it also discusses the importance of organizational habits – the routines that underlay most business performance. 

As I read this book, I was struck by the similarities and synergies between organizational habits and management systems.  The routines that are the basic building blocks of habits are equivalent to the procedures (i.e. specified ways of conducting activities) that are the basic building blocks of management systems.  It struck me that the reason some organizations get great benefits from implementing management systems and others do not is the extent to which management systems are used to create and promote habits of success.

Are you interested in developing an OHSMS that creates positive cultural change?  Read this book.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)
March 27, 2012 | 0 Comments More

7 Steps to Creating Effective Checklists

In my last blog, I discussed the importance of checklists in saving lives. 

Checklists are everywhere.  

They are an integral part of many personal activities – from completing your tax return to communicating symptoms to your doctor.  Checklists also play an important role in managing many business processes. 

Checklists will be an important part of your OHSMS documentation.

In order to be effective, checklists need to be intelligently designed and routinely used.  They also need to be controlled.

So how do you go about creating a great checklist?

September 15, 2011 | 1 Comment More

Checklists Save Lives

Checklists are essential to successful business operations.  Checklists are an integral part of an occupational health and safety management system.  More importantly, checklists save lives.

 This result is most obvious in medicine where the use of surgical checklists has saved thousands of lives and untold suffering. The importance of checklists in medicine was highlighted in a 2007 article in the New Yorker Magazine, The Checklist. The most dramatic of these incentives is the international adoption of a one-page Surgical Safety Checklist developed, promoted and disseminated by the World Health Organization.

Click here to download a copy of this checklist. 


There are numerous uses of checklists in OH&S management systems.  In fact, checklists are one of the most effective way of creating management system procedures and work instructions to meet the OHSAS 18001 requirements. 

Some of the OH&S uses of checklists include –

  1. Inspection checklists – for forklift trucks, fire extinguishers and other safety-critical devices, equipment and supplies.
  2. Plans and permits – for confined space entry, hot work and equipment lockout where the sequence of tasks and adequacy of precautions are critical.
  3. Emergency preparedness – for making sure equipment, materials and personnel will be ready and available when an incident occurs.
  4. Risk assessments – for evaluating the hazards and risks associated with materials, equipment and tasks.
  5. Internal audit protocols – for making sure that OHSMS audits are complete, inclusive and cost-effective.

As regulations, activities and organizations become more complex, checklists become increasingly important for ensuring that nothing is missed.  This is why pilot checklists were developed in aviation in the 1930s.  This is why surgical checklists are being aggressively promoted in medicine today.  This is why most OH&S management systems would benefit from the use of appropriately-designed checklists. 

In my next blog, I will cover the 5 steps you should follow in order to develop good OHSMS checklists.

In the meantime, click here to request a copy of my EHSMS Implementation Checklist.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2011)
August 10, 2011 | 1 Comment More

What is PDCA?

If you are exploring the web looking for information about implementing management systems, pretty soon you will come across the acronym PDCA.  You will quickly discover that PDCA stands for plan-do-check-act but it may not be clear to you what this actually means.

This page provides access to a FREE mini-course that provides clear and concise answers to the following questions –

  •   What is a Management System?
  •   What is PDCA and what does it mean?
  •   Why is PDCA important?
  •   How can I determine if an OHSMS standard is  based on PDCA or not?

This course is about 15  minutes long.  Since it is a flash presentation located on a separate web page, you may need modify your browser settings to allow pop-ups in order to access the course. Also, in order to hear the audio, you will need speakers on your computer. When you are ready to begin, just click on the link below. 

Click here to open – Plan-Do-Check-Act – An Introduction to PDCA

Have comments or questions about this course? 

You can type your questions or comments into the comment box below (you may need to click on the more button if you are on the home page) or send me an e-mail at ecsi2008@ENLAR.c0m.

Did you enjoy this course? 

Check out my Introduction to OHSAS 18001 Course.

This course provides insight into interpreting the OHSAS 18001:2007 requirements as well as expert guidance in implementing an OHSMS for purposes of third-party certification.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2011)
August 2, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Irrational Decisions Impact OHSMS Implementation

Last May, I gave a presentation on auditing occupational health and safety management systems at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference (click here to access my blog post about that presentation).   I was followed by a speaker who talked about behavioral considerations in implementing an OH&S management system.  The focus of her presentation was on helping people make rational decisions about safety.

The problem is that individuals do NOT make rational decisions – particularly when it comes to safety and health.

  • They refuse to wash their hands and come to work sick – even though these are the best strategies to prevent a potential epidemic.
  • They talk and text on their cell phones while driving – even though it is as dangerous as drinking and driving.
  • They wear their safety glasses on the top of their head rather than as protection for their eyes – as seen over and over again on HGTV shows.  (I keep meaning to write a letter to HGTV pointing out the poor example they are setting for all of the DIYers in the audience.)

Why do people act irrationally?

My favorite book on this topic is Predictably Irrational (click on the link below to order from Amazon).  In this book, Dan Ariely explores the reasons why individuals appear to act irrationally – this includes overvaluing our possessions, letting options distract us from our real objectives, and following established social norms in the workplace.  As he puts it – “we consistently overpay, underestimate and procrastinate.”

July 19, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Out with the Old – In with the New

The start of the New Year is good time to pause, reflect and clean out.

Many organizations use the start of the year as a time to review their OH&S management system objectives and set new ones.  If their OH&S programs are lagging in their implementation, new approaches or new assignments are considered. 

This is also a good time to address all that PAPER – either physical paper or electronic paper.  This includes all those completed hazard evaluation forms, inspection checklists, excel spreadsheets, meeting notices and minutes, e-mails with various interested parties, incident investigations, corrective action reports,….

When I help develop record control processes and procedures for an organization, one of the concepts I try to incorporate is the inclusion of record schedules with record breaks and scheduled clean-out days. 

January 15, 2010 | 0 Comments More

Ban the Blame

One of the key requirements of the OHSAS 18001 standard is establishing a procedure for taking corrective and preventive action (section  Both corrective and preventive action need to include identifying the underlying causes – often called root causes – of whatever it is that is or went wrong. 

This is not easy.  Often, the root cause investigation ends with a determination along the lines of “Joe screwed up.”  We play the blame game.


December 15, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Should I Write a Procedure?

One of the difficult questions that OH&S managers face is – “Do we need a written procedure for [some process]?”  The dilemma is that although written procedures are a necessary part of an occupational safety and health management system – if you create too many formal procedures your OHSMS becomes complex, cumbersome and unwieldy.

 I just got done reading an article in the October 2009 Quality Progress Magazine that sets out a nifty tool for making this decision – a 2 x 2 matrix for deciding whether or not to standardize a process.  Although the example given in this article – Building a Consensus – is  for a quality system process, it can be easily adapted to making standardization decisions in an OH&S management system.

Try it out for your OH&S management system and let me know – “Did it work?” – by posting your comments below.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)
November 6, 2009 | 0 Comments More