Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
In this article, we explore specific clauses within the international standard ISO45001:2018 ‘Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems’, clarifying some of the requirements of the clauses and highlighting some potential pitfalls. In this article we consider some aspects of Clause 6 ‘Planning’.
Clause 6 requires the planning of an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS), taking into account the context in which the organisation sits, the scope of its activities and the ‘interested parties’, either internal or external stakeholders. In this respect it needs to be read in conjunction with Clause 4 ‘Context of the Organisation’.
Assurance that the OHSMS can achieve its intended outcomes is best achieved through robust planning and preparation. Planning is an ongoing process, anticipating change and it involves identifying the hazards and risks to health and safety of workers and others, and identifying the opportunities for risk elimination, reduction, and control. This goes well beyond the traditional remit of factory-floor health and safety. The landscape has changed rapidly over the last few years, and is now inclusive of automation, mental wellbeing, homeworking and lone working, Brexit contingencies and the control of infection, amongst others. Occupational health and safety management systems also need to take into account external influencing factors. Has the company taken on new legal responsibilities, perhaps as an importer of chemicals or work equipment from Europe? Red-On-Line can be your invaluable partner in establishing cross-border legal registers to assist you in these matters.
Planning activities should maintain and improve your risk assessment process. This should take into account changing hazards and the effectiveness of the measures taken to control them. But what hazards need to be taken into account in planning an OHMS?
- Hazards from the way the work is organised should be taken into account. This recognises organisational factors; the prevailing culture, workloads, working hours, and hidden stressors (bullying, victimisation, or harassment for example).
- Hazards arising from both routine and non-routine activities and situations. So many accidents involve non-routine activities that are slightly out of the ‘norm’ and which have not been thought through and assessed diligently.
- Consider workplace infrastructure hazards, installations and equipment, the physical conditions of the workplace, and the hazards arising from the use, storage, handling and transport of materials and substances.
- Include other human factors, how the work is performed and by whom, taking into account potential emergencies and the history of past incidents.
- Consider hazards throughout the business cycle from research and development, design and testing, production and assembly, maintenance, logistics and disposal. Cradle to the grave.
Clause 6 also encourages the identification of any other hazards, risks and opportunities related to achieving the aims of your OHSMS. Make sure that the methodology and criteria for assessing your organisational OH&S risks are clearly documented.
A plan should also be established, implemented, and maintained for seeking opportunities to enhance OH&S performance. Seize the chance to seek OH&S improvements during changes to the organisation and the activities therein. Perhaps a new warehouse is to be built; or new information systems are to be installed; or there is a significant change in the management structure of a department. Think how much OH&S can be designed into those changes from the very beginning. Change is regarded as a great opportunity on which to piggyback improvements to the work environment.
Importantly, an organisation needs to address what legal requirements and other requirements (e.g. permits and licencing) are applicable to its hazards, risks, and management system and what needs to be taken into account when establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving its OHSMS. Legal requirements may be national, regional, or international and access to Red-On-Line software systems to manage up-to-date regulatory content is invaluable in this respect. The organization must prepare and maintain documented information on its legal requirements and ensure that it is updated to reflect any changes.
Plan to achieve your OH&S objectives and make sure these plans are consistent with your OH&S Policy. Objectives should be set at relevant functions and levels in order to maintain and continually improve the OH&S systems and performance. They should be communicated: what will be done, the resources needed, who will be responsible and over what timescales. Any actions need to be proportionate to the risk of course. Necessary resources need to be costed for implementation and ongoing operation, including any necessary processes, equipment, training, monitoring and communication mechanisms. Document how progress will be monitored, measured, and evaluated. And keep it up to date.