Category: Training & Communication

What is Knowledge?

There is a great deal of emphasis on managing “knowledge” these days.

  • Organizations are striving to become “knowledge-based.”
  • Corporate mission statements are focused on “creating knowledge.”
  • Thousands, if not millions, of dollars are being spent on “knowledge management.”

This is ironic because knowledge doesn’t actually exist – at least not in any physical sense.

Knowledge is personal.  As one blog commenter put it – “Information becomes knowledge when it gets to your brain.” 

Can an organization have knowledge?

In the future, the answer may be “yes” –  if computers advance to become the independent artificial intelligence (‘brains”) of organizations.

Today, the answer is “no.”  Organizations can be filled with knowledgeable individuals.  Organizations can promote the development of knowledge.  Organizations can facilitate the sharing of knowledge.  Organizations can’t, however, be knowledgeable since they do not have what is needed for knowledge – a brain.

Can an organization create knowledge?

This is a little like asking if one can create love – or anger or fear or any other state of being or personal attribute – within another individual.  The answer is “no.”  Companies can facilitate the creation of knowledge; however, becoming knowledgeable remains a personal choice. 

One of the common excuses given by senior management to justify why they are not responsible for organizational malfeasance is, “I didn’t know.” (Consider Rupert Murdock of News Corporation and Bob Diamond of Barclays Bank).  This “I didn’t know” excuse would have no validity for avoiding liability if, in fact, organizations can create knowledge.

Why is this important for OH&S management systems?

To have an effective occupational safety & health management system, an organization must put processes in place to promote the development of personal knowledge sufficient for individuals to make the appropriate decisions – and be held accountable.

Knowledge does not exist simply because procedures have been uploaded to a corporate database.  Knowledge does not exist because an e-mail has been sent or a training program was uploaded to the intranet.  Knowledge does not exist because a report has been created.  All of these are simply the creation of information.  Knowledge only exists when information reaches an individual. 

One of the focuses of an OH&S management system is taking steps to ensure senior management becomes knowledgeable.  Personal knowledge is needed for making the decisions necessary for Management Review (see Section 4.6 of OHSAS 18001).  Personal knowledge is also needed to ensure the availability of the resources essential for maintaining and improving the management system (see Section 4.4.1 of OHSAS 18001).  One of the benefits associated with implementing an effective OHSMS is that the “I didn’t know” excuse is no longer appropriate – nor should it be necessary.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)
July 6, 2012 | 0 Comments 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

Who Decides?

Decision-making is an important part of a management system.  In particular, making decisions that appropriately take into account the interests of stakeholders is emphasized in all management systems, including OHSAS 18001.

For a quality management system, the ultimate stakeholder is the customer.  The primary focus of a QMS is customer satisfaction.  After all, without satisfied customers, there is no business.

For an environmental management system, society-at-large is the stakeholder with laws and regulations establishing societal standards for what is considered adequate pollution prevention.  Legal compliance is a required commitment within the organization’s environmental policy and a key focus of an EMS.

In both a QMS and EMS, there are independent stakeholders outside the organization that serve to counterbalance the internal interests of the organization.

For an OHSMS the situation is different.  The primary stakeholders – workers who may suffer injury or ill health – are internal to the organization.

April 26, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Creating “Awareness”

One of the requirements of OHSAS 18001 is that procedures must be established to make workers aware of the following –

  • The occupational health and safety (OH&S) consequences of their work activities and behaviors
  • Their roles and responsibilities for following OH&S policies and procedures
  • The consequences of not following these policies and procedures

As anyone who has put together communication and training programs will tell you, trying to raise awareness can be a difficult undertaking.

Therefore, I was struck by an article in the August 2009 ABA Journal that discussed how a New York City ordinance for “raising awareness” to prevent obesity ended up the subject of a lawsuit.

August 4, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Information is Not Instruction

I was recently asked to review the safety issues related to a particular task that necessitated the handling of a flammable liquid.  This is not the first such operation I have reviewed.  In fact, the proper handling of flammable liquids is a topic that has come up over and over again during my career as a occupational health and safety professional.  In conjunction with this evaluation, I reviewed the safety training currently being used for training the operators who perform this task.

In this case, like many, many others, the training being provided was an on-line generic training video developed by an outside safety training company that had been turned into “web-based” training.  What struck me in reviewing this training was the complete and total disconnect between the operation being performed at the facility and the safety training being provided to the employees performing the work. 

They had almost nothing in common. 

For example –

  • The facility using the flammable liquid was a clean room / laboratory operation; the training film was set in a “heavy industry” machine shop.
  • The task involved handling of relatively small quantities of flammable liquids in glass beakers; the training video showed the handling of large quantities of flammable liquids in 55-gallon drums.
  • No bonding and grounding is used during dispensing operations; the training video emphasized the importance of bonding and grounding.
  • Employees used little PPE; the training video showed employees using respirators and face shields for protection.

Because I am currently in the process of developing several e-learning programs, I have been reviewing information on instructional design as it relates to creating web-based training programs.  One of the experts in this area is M. David Merrill, a professor of instructional technology at Utah State University.  One of the points he emphasizes is – simply providing information is NOT instruction.  Instead, when developing training, he suggests that you start by developing a task-centered instructional design strategy. 

Start with one of the tasks being performed and build training that is appropriate to performing that task.  Eliminate information that is irrelevant or misleading.  Focus on what is important and useful to the specific task.  Apply the information to case study situations that are consistent with the content being taught.  Ask students to apply the knowledge being taught to a scenario that is similar to their real-world experience.  Build your training by repeating each of these steps for any other relevant tasks.

Want more information? 

Go to M. David Merrill’s web site and download his paper that discusses using the use of these principles in developing an on-line first aid course in Australia.  It is really cool.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)


July 1, 2009 | 0 Comments More

What is Competency? The Answer Seems Subject To Change.

In a previous blog, I discussed the difference between competency and awareness in an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS).  In that blog, I used the ISO 9000:2000 definition of competence as “demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills” since OHSAS 18001:2007 does not include a definition. 

It seems that the appropriate definition of competence is now subject of some debate within ISO and may be subject to being “re-defined.”

Competency is a significant component of at least four standards currently under development within ISO –

  • ISO 10018 – Quality management: Guidelines on people involvement and competencies
  • ISO 14066 – Greenhouse Gases – Competency requirements for greenhouse gas validators and verifiers
  • ISO 17021 Part B – Conformity assessment – Requirements for third-party certification auditing of management systems
  • ISO 19011 (revision) – Guidelines for management system auditing

Interestingly, each of these standards has apparently rejected the dictionary definition, as well as the ISO 9000 definition, and each ISO Technical Committee appears to be in the process of developing its own concept of competence. 

ISO 10018 is apparently focusing on how “human factors” impact the effective functioning of management systems with the definition of competency being passed to a subcommittee.  ISO 14066 is structured to set out detailed lists of the skills and knowledge that must be possessed by GHG verification and validation teams – with the focus on team rather than individual competency.  The initial committee draft of ISO 17021 defined competence as “personal attributes and ability to apply knowledge and skills” with a heavy focus on personal attributes and generic audit skills but essentially no guidance as to the needed discipline-specific knowledge (e.g. quality, environmental, OH&S).  The revision of ISO 19011 has just begun; however, the issue of auditor competency has already been identified as one of the “hot-button issues” associated with revision of this standard.

A review of the various standards and other reference materials appear to set out three different, and distinct, attributes that underlie competency:

  • Attitude and personality traits –who you are
  • Knowledge – what you know
  • Skills – what you can do

Where the ISO standards seem to diverge is in the relative importance to be given to each attribute (personality vs. knowledge vs. skill) as well as in the specifics of what is actually required and how it should be demonstrated.

What do you think?  What is competency?

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2008)

August 25, 2008 More

Training is a Means – Not an End

“Training” is the shorthand term most often used to describe the requirements set out in Section 4.4.2 of OHSAS 18001. In actuality, OHSAS 18001 does not require training. What OHSAS 18001 does require is either competency or awareness. Training is simply a means to an end and it is not the only way to get there.

June 26, 2008 More

“You Will Be Assimilated.”

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.

June 24, 2008 More

Fast Forward to the Future

In yesterday’s blog I discussed eliminating business silos – including those that isolate OH&S from the rest of the organization.  One of the key ways identified to destroy silos is to facilitate collaboration.

Therefore, my interest was peaked by an article I read today in the June 25, 2007, issue of InformationWeek entitled Beyond E-Mail.

This article discusses Procter & Gamble’s efforts to improve employee collaboration.

What did the CEO of Proctor & Gamble describe as the biggest barrier to collaboration?



The sender of an e-mail controls the agenda.

What is P&G promoting to replace e-mail?


OH&S Professionals take note.  Blogging is likely to be in our future.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2007)

June 29, 2007 More