Management systems provide a foundation for safer and healthier workplaces. Without one, it is challenging for organizations to assess their current state, identify areas for improvement and track progress toward goals.
Sarah Anderson, MSPH, CIH, principal consultant at Incident Free Operations Group, helped guide an inspection, testing and certification company through the process of developing and implementing an occupational health and safety (OHS) management system to reduce the number of fatalities and improve recordkeeping.
An inspection, testing and certification company with more than 100,000 employees across the globe had no corporate-level management system or programs in place. There was no consistency in OHS management, no incident reporting software system, safety data sheet (SDS) system or internal auditing system.
The company experienced nine fatalities in one year, and OHS expectations, hazards, risks and control measures were not well understood. Incidents were classified and reported inconsistently, and there were gaps in compliance with local regulations and company expectations.
Leadership assembled a corporate OHS staff, developed a corporation-wide OHS management system and identified supporting tools including an OHS incident reporting tool, SDS management software and industrial hygiene/medical surveillance software.
The OHS management system would be ISO 45001 compliant, designed based on OSHA regulatory requirements, adjusted by country and site and translated into 10 core languages within the company. Cross-functional staff reviewed and selected software systems, and each program had a dedicated development and implementation team. There was also a dedicated SharePoint page available to everyone in each location so that they could access the lifesaving rules, documents and tools supporting the management system.
OHS staff would include certified safety professionals, certified industrial hygienists, quality systems professionals, and culture and analytics professionals, each with advanced degrees and more than 15 years of international experience.
“There are a lot of different elements involved in implementing an effective OHS management system at a global level,” says Anderson. “You need the support of upper management to provide the time, money and resources you need to implement the program and train employees, as well as getting buy-in from various stakeholders.”
These changes led to a reduction in fatalities and high-risk situations for workers and provided greater visibility of OHS performance globally. Having the same metrics in place for each facility allowed the company to compare OHS performance across countries and business lines, as well as identify gaps and develop improvement plans.
The implementation of software such as the incident reporting tool allowed managers to see trends in their facility, identify areas of concern and track the progress of different initiatives.
Five years after the implementation of the incident reporting tool, the company saw more than a 50 percent decrease in its lost time incidents and total recordable incident rate. The global management of safety data sheets with one software system also saved the company more than $250,000.
Finally, the industrial hygiene/medical surveillance software brought greater awareness and focus to environmental hazards and how to manage risks. Industrial hygiene monitoring found concerns regarding silica, lead and noise exposure with certain business lines in certain countries. With this data, the company put engineering controls in place that helped reduce exposures and improve worker health.
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