A simple two-step approach to handle non-conformities in your Safety Management System
Organizations across the globe are proactively looking for ways to enhance their focus on safeguarding the health and safety of their workforce. According to a report published by McKinsey a few years back, one of the biggest reasons for safety incidents at the workplace comes from the misplaced mindset of a few people at work.
What do we mean by misplaced mindset? The McKinsey report highlights a few examples:
- Fear of blame: Your employees have a reason not to report an incident. They probably even fear that they will be blamed for the incident, in some cases.
- Well, safety is not my job: Some of your people may believe that health & safety is to be managed by your safety manager or EHS leader. They adopt a don’t-care approach to reporting near-misses or observations.
- Safety processes are reducing my team’s efficiency: In some cases, health and safety processes may be time-consuming and may add complexity to a workflow. Your people may ignore a safety-related process just to save some time.
- Hmm, you know what — I am just lazy! – In this case, your people don’t understand the importance of proactively acting on every incident, near-miss, or safety observation. A “lazy” effort to ignore a safety checklist may prove to be fatal in the long run.
One of the key roles of a safety leader and EHS manager is to build an enterprise-wide culture of safety. It is certainly not a siloed effort; rather the safety team must rally together the entire organization and drum up proactive support to ensure all your people (and key stakeholders) understand the value of an organization that pursues safety excellence.
One of the keys to health & safety excellence is continuous improvement. You need to constantly improve, fine-tune, optimize and upgrade your health and safety process and workflow. It is certainly not a one-time, static effort. Rather, it requires the nimbleness and agility to constantly spot “gaps” to fix.
In this blog, we suggest a simple, two-step approach to constantly improve your SMS, by continuously looking for non-conformities.
Step 1: Identification of non-conformities
Let us assume that your enterprise is ISO 45001 certified. It is a regulation that is designed to protect your visitors, employees, and other stakeholders from any illnesses, accidents, or safety mishaps at the workplace.
Despite implementing ISO 45001, there may still be an incident (or a near-miss) on the shopfloor. To mitigate risks from the incident, the first step is to report the incident and understand what caused it. You need a well-designed incident management solution, supported with the right digital tool. Through a root cause analysis process, we spot the missing link in our safety management workflow that caused the accident. For instance, it may be because of a piece of equipment that wasn’t maintained on schedule or, maybe, a machine operator missed completing a step mentioned in the standard operating procedure.
Whatever be the case, it is critical to conduct an inspection and audit, to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
The questions to be answered are –
- Why did the failure happen? What caused the incident, near-miss, or safety observation?
- Why didn’t the next-generation EHS management system predict this before it happened?
- More importantly, how do we rejig the system to prevent this occurrence in the future?
- Should we proactively analyze other potential safety risks?
Asking the right questions and diving deeper will play a critical role in fixing non-conformities and closing gaps in your safety management system. A well-designed audit process is critical to improving your safety management system.
Step #2: Fix, Track & Constantly Improve
The key point here is that – any incident, near-miss, or safety observation must result in two follow-up actions.
- One, handling the incident by proactively helping people involved in the accident, in addition to meeting regulatory requirements.
- Two, it must trigger a process to improve the health & safety management system.
The key here is to have at your disposal an EHS that is flexible and can be configued with ease. Implementing change to the safety management system must not be a drag.
Moreover, your EHS must be easily accessible to all your employees — so incident reporting and mitigation efforts can happen in near-real-time. It will also help drive a collaborative effort towards reducing incident rates and implementing risk management programs.
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