How to Drive Towards a Zero Incident EHS Management System

EHS_metrics-1.pngMany companies have the goal of achieving “Zero Incidents” or “Zero Harm” to people and the environment as a result of their operations. This can mean zero injuries, zero property damage, and zero environmental impact depending on how the organization defines it. It can even mean no near- misses and no unsafe behaviors. In this post, we’ll discuss how management systems can be used to drive towards this goal, and a powerful case study.

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The Name of the Game is Continuous Improvement

A big question is whether “zero” is even a realistic target for a company to shoot for. Is it just a pie-in-the-sky goal? Some argue it’s not achievable because it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, especially considering that constant change in operations continually introduces new risks to be addressed. Others claim that getting to zero is attainable through systematic continuous improvement. If you keep driving improvement long enough, you’ll eventually prevent all incidents.

Whether or not zero Incidents is realistically attainable, there is general agreement that having a systematic process for driving continuous improvement is the key to better safety and environmental performance. The same can be said for improving quality, asset, and even overall operational performance. This is reflected in the wide-spread adoption of management systems standards based on the classic “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (PDCA) cycle of continuous improvement popularized by Deming. These include the ISO 9001, 14001, 55001, and 31000 standards for quality, Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS), Asset Performance Management (APM), and risk management, respectively. The OHSAS 18001 standard for health and safety management has also been widely adopted.

Basic Elements of a Health and Safety Management System

OHSAS 18001 defines the key elements of an occupational health and safety (OHS) management system, and how they should be implemented. The goal is to have a well-defined management system in-place to ensure legal compliance and effective management of hazards and potential risks. Once processes and procedures are implemented, the standard calls for ongoing review and continuous improvement.

The basic operating framework for OHSAS 18001 (and other management system standards) is the PDCA cycle. This is a closed-loop process for continuous improvement. The basic elements of the standard in the context of PDCA are:

  • PLAN - develop policies, objectives, and plans
    • Identify hazards, assess risks, and develop controls
    • Plan for compliance with legal and other requirements
    • Establish objectives and action plans
  • DO - implement plans and programs
    • Assign resources and responsibilities
    • Training and awareness
    • Communication and participation
    • Check effectiveness of risk controls
  • CHECK and ACT – measurement, review and improvement
    • Performance measurement and monitoring
    • Evaluation of compliance
    • Incident investigation and corrective action
    • Internal audits
    • Management review

The Importance of Management Involvement and Organizational Culture

As you would expect, OHSAS 18001 requires a lot of “technical” programs and activities. Hazards need to be identified, risks assessed, and controls implemented and checked; incidents need to be investigated and corrective actions taken; training done; and so forth. Much of this is basic compliance and risk management blocking and tackling.

The standard also a lot of “soft” organizational and people-related requirements. This includes development of policies; senior management commitment and direct involvement; active participation by employees at various levels; and communication (internally, with contractors, and externally). Experience has shown that without direct involvement of senior management it is difficult to achieve the cultural shifts needed for real change to occur.

The importance of management involvement is shown by the forthcoming ISO 45001 OHS management systems standard which will effectively replace OHSAS 18001 later this year. The new standard will require increased engagement by senior management in OHS, and incorporation of OHS into the overall business strategy. This type of business integration is critical to truly operationalize the OHS management system.

Real-world Application in Pace Industries’ Journey to Zero

What’s possible with effective execution of a proactive health and safety management system? Die cast manufacturer Pace Industries achieved 62%, 75%, and 250% reductions in OSHA recordables, DART, and Lost Work Days over a three-year period after implementing an OHS management system.

In our next Global Executive Council meeting on March 17th, at 1:00 pm EDT we will be joined by Kenny Sandlin, VP of Health and Safety at Pace Industries where he will tell the journey of how Pace used the management system to implement its “Journey to Zero” strategy. A key part of the story is that leadership commitment and management accountability has been foundational to realizing the OHS management system. This commitment has been key to achieving the culture change needed to effect such major safety performance improvement. Embedding safety within Pace’s Lean Manufacturing initiative was also instrumental in making the business case that investments in safety will help improve overall business performance.

Be sure to join the meeting where you can hear the whole story from Pace Industries and LNS Research!New Call-to-action

All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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