Tag: Worker Participation
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.)
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.”
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.
Last week I gave a presentation to an industry group on OSHA’s proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) rule. In my presentation, I focused on the requirements for worker participation within an OHSMS.
One of the questions OSHA raised in its original I2P2 proposal was –
What mechanisms have been found to be effective for enabling employees to participate in safety and health in the workplace?
Worker participation is one of the areas where there are significant differences between OHSAS 18001 and both ANSI Z10 and OSHA VPP.
OSHA VPP and ANSI Z10 focus on employee participation, as defined by the technicality of labor law. OHSAS 18001 focuses instead on worker participation, as defined by the extent of the organization’s control over the work being performed.