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Preventing Workplace Injuries With ISO 45001

It’s a sobering thought that 95% of all injuries and accidents are caused by unsafe employee acts, not unsafe conditions.

It’s a sobering thought that 95% of all injuries and accidents are caused by unsafe employee acts, not unsafe conditions.

For example, you may develop very effective standard operating procedures only to discover that nobody is following them. You may provide safety glasses and hearing protection, but find no one is wearing them. You may build an ergonomically friendly workstation only to observe poor posture or a ‘creative’ workstation setup.

Because workers’ compensation is a ‘no fault’ system, the costs of injuries that result from lack of employee compliance will still be borne by the organisation, so the only way to ensure a truly successful safety programme is to make the management team responsible for actually preventing injuries and accidents.

In order to accomplish this, a bit of psychology is required. Before managers can take steps to prevent unsafe behaviour they need to first understand what causes people to behave unsafely. This might sound obvious, but when you consider that no one sets out to get injured intentionally, you realise that the complexities of human nature are indeed at play.

There are a range of reasons employees perform unsafe acts. For example, they don’t know the right procedures. Management assumes people will exercise good common sense and therefore does not adequately train employees. Often this is the outcome of safety instruction that is far too general – for example ‘be careful’. Conversely, it may result from handing an employee a large safety rules guide and simply instructing them to read it and sign the dotted line.

Either way, the employee does not really understand – and is therefore not able to follow – correct safety procedures.

They also take short cuts. Sometimes this occurs because an employee simply gets lazy, and believes it’s just easier to not follow the rules. On the other hand, it can also occur because management has inadvertently encouraged not following the rules by placing unrealistic demands on employees or undertaking poor planning, which in turn results in undue pressure to cut corners to meet deadlines.

Then they can get complacent. Statistically, we know that employees can perform an unsafe act hundreds – even thousands – of times, with no resulting accident. This lack of negative consequence reinforces the unsafe behaviour, creating bad work habits and the attitude that “it will never happen to me.”

We know, however, that the more times unsafe acts occur, statistically the more frequently an accident or injury will result.

The key, then, to eliminating injuries and accidents, and ultimately the associated costs, is to eliminate unsafe behaviour by counteracting the scenarios outlined above.

What you’ll be doing when implementing ISO 45001

As with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, there is a lot of commonality between the ISO 9001 and ISO 45001 standards. Both require you to:

  • Look at the context of your organisation

  • Demonstrate leadership and commitment

  • Have a company policy (one for Quality and the other for Health & Safety)

  • Demonstrate organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities

  • Demonstrate planning, including actions to address risks and opportunities

  • Have objectives and with a plan on how to achieve them

  • Show appropriate and adequate resources to implement your management system

  • Show competence

  • Demonstrate awareness across your organisation

  • Use effective communication both internally and externally

  • Have control of documented information

  • Demonstrate operational planning and control

  • Use performance evaluation (e.g. internal audit and management review)

  • Show improvement measures (e.g. nonconformity and corrective action and continual improvement)

However, ISO 45001 has in essence beefed up the following elements:

  • Hazard identification and assessment of risks and opportunities

  • Incident, nonconformity and corrective action

And it introduces these six distinct requirements in addition to all of the above:

  • Consultation and participation of workers

  • Determination of legal requirements and other requirements

  • Eliminating hazards and reducing OH&S risks

  • Management of change

  • Procurement

  • Emergency preparedness and response

If you would like to look at how to implement an ISO 45001 quality management system, then simply contact us.

Or, if you want to see what's involved in more detail, then get a completely free, no obligation, totally tailored ISO Gap Analysis for your business (only available to UK businesses).

Article originated in The Ideas Distillery blog

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