O is for occupational safety & health management standards
Thursday 9th March 2017
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Adam Smith fuelled the industrial revolution with his suggestion that, by standardising tasks in industry and giving each worker just one simple job to do, cheaper labour could replace skilled workers on a production line. Known as the division of labour, the idea was reinforced in the 1920s with Frederick Taylor's scientific management, and was applied by Henry Ford to his car production lines. However, the same ideas led to overexposure to noise, vibration, hazardous substances, poor ergonomics and to repetitive use injuries. We take for granted that when we buy a bolt of a particular size it will fit the corresponding nut; but is this the best model for occupational safety and health management (OSHM)?
The first version of ISO 9001, the international quality management standard, was published in 1987. Four years later, the UK Health and Safety Executive came out with a standard in guidance form, known widely as HSG65 (bit.ly/2mFdRi7). Its POPIMAR cycle -- policy, organise, plan, implement, monitor, audit, review -- became the basis of the OSHM systems for UK organisations that wanted to manage OHS well. Audit schemes were created around HSG65, such as RoSPA's Quality Safety Audit.
The first in the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series, OHSAS 18001:1999 was a specification -- something more than a guide, but not yet a standard. BS OHSAS 18001:2007 was the first document to refer to itself as an OSHM standard.
BS OHSAS 18001 has been widely adopted, not just in the UK but worldwide. However, though other national standards and certification bodies were involved with its development, the BS prefix led to the perception in other countries that it was "not invented here".
Weapons made by craftsmen varied in size, so you could not use parts from one damaged gun in a war zone to repair another
Countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and signed up to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) commit themselves not to use protectionist policies to inhibit trade. Article 20 of GATT permitted countries to use standards to protect human, animal or plant life or health, as long as they are not used as a "disguised restriction on international trade".
Governments have been challenged before -- for example, the US was told it could not restrict tuna imports on the basis of a detailed "dolphin-friendly" specification for fishing methods, as there might be other equally dolphin-friendly techniques in use.
The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 caused the death of 1,250 people. European customers of the factory were criticised for not having insisted on better safety standards from their suppliers (see p 46). But insisting that BS OHSAS was a minimum standard could have resulted in a WTO challenge of protectionism. The WTO (bit.ly/1yQ7NiE) explains: "If a country applies international standards, it is less likely to be challenged legally in the WTO than if it sets its own standards."
Also in 2013, work started on a truly international OHS standard: ISO 45001. It has been a difficult journey; the publication date has been repeatedly postponed because of the large number of comments by national bodies on the drafts. How should the standard word the requirements for employers to consult with their workers? Even if an auditor had a reliable measure of the "active participation of workers" in policymaking and, if the workers don't participate, is it always the fault of the organisation for not "ensuring" it? Though the language of standards is "you shall-¦", much of the content on participation and consultation has had to be placed in an informative annex, where guidance is framed with statements that "you can-¦".
Can a standard on OSHM really meet ISO requirements (bit.ly/2j85hYK) to be "clear and unambiguous" and to include "only those requirements which can be verified" and still be helpful? The reaction to publication of the final text later in the year and its subsequent take-up by the profession will give an indication.
Cormac Gilligan, CMIOSH, is concerned about the millennial generation. Specifically, about how to hold on to the brightest and the best of those who reached adulthood since 2000.“It’s the talent conundrum that we generally have in our field,” he says, “how to engage the millennials – the oldest of them are entering their mid-30s now.”
Words: Neil Budworth, Elizabeth Stokoe and Emily Hostatter There is no doubt that the role of the safety and health practitioner is a challenging one; often rewarding, very often enjoyable, but demanding and sometimes eye-wateringly frustrating.When the problem is a technical one, we can apply our training, our underpinning knowledge, and cold logic to design the solution. Our technical knowledge helps define us as a profession and it is why our professional qualifications are so important.
In the US the term is also referred to as a “close call” and is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as an incident “in which a worker might have been hurt if the circumstances had been slightly different” (bit.ly/2kwpZ3X).
Much of the research in perception of risk is on how the general public perceives threats such as nuclear power, vaccinations, transportation modes or smoking. However, awareness of these studies’ findings is useful when we consider how to communicate risk messages to workers, and where organisations’ activities affect the public.
Rating: Taleb uses this story as the springboard for a series of essays to explore the pitfalls we face when we try to predict the future, whether it’s the next terrorist attack, a rise in the price of oil or the launch of a new mega product on the market.
Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who feel able to work are missing out on the right support in the workplace, according to a UK parliamentary report. A year-long review by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for MS found that the fluctuating nature of the condition, which affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, is a particular barrier to work.
While it is no longer acceptable to assume that all men are stronger than all women, or that people of one colour have different personalities to those of another colour it is, it appears, entirely acceptable to declare that anyone born since 1980 is addicted to social media and will ‘challenge traditional hierarchical HSE systems’, while anyone born before that date is a luddite with no understanding of the modern age, but will be quite happy to toe the line.
In this webinar, we will take a closer look at what the new stats mean compared to previous years with a focus on the topics of chemical management, permit to work and EHS in the manufacturing industry. Book your free place now and earn CPD points, too.
IOSH magazine spoke to HSE inspector Bill Gilroy about a serious accident at a Nestlé factory in Newcastle – an almost carbon copy of a previous incident at another of the confectionary firm’s factories.
Newcastle City Council has accepted responsibility for failing to properly manage the risk of a decayed willow tree that collapsed in strong winds and struck several children while they were playing at Gosforth Park First School in Newcastle upon Tyne during the lunchbreak.
A European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) report exploring the health risks associated with prolonged static sitting at work has outlined a range of measures that employers should include in a prevention strategy to enhance employee protection.