Onwards and Upwards
In a series of articles we explore specific clauses within the international standard ISO45001:2018 ‘Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems’ (OSHMS), clarifying some of the requirements of the clauses and highlighting some potential pitfalls. In this article we consider aspects of Clause 10 entitled ‘Improvement’. This is the final clause within the standard and it is the last part of the jigsaw as it builds on the previous clauses promoting future development of the organisations OHSMS. The clause reflects the ‘act’ aspect of the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ health and safety cycle, determining opportunities for improvement and implementing the necessary actions to achieve the intended outcomes.
Although clauses appear at first glance to be distinct from each other, there are many cross-references between them. The theme of ‘continual improvement’ runs throughout the standard. Clause 5 requires top management to demonstrate leadership and commitment by ensuring and promoting continual improvement and this should be stated in the OH&S policy. Clause 6 requires risks and opportunities to be addressed to achieve continual improvement. Clause 7 requires the determination and provision of resources for continual improvement and for workers to contribute to the task of continual improvement. In Clause 9 there is a requirement to address opportunities for continual improvement and to provide information on such. Within clause 10 continual improvement is addressed directly. With the theme running so deep, users of the standard should adopt a ‘continual improvement’ mind-set.
Where might opportunities for continual improvement show themselves?
- Technical and technological advances may be of direct or indirect relevance. New information-based technology might be introduced which has knock-on benefits throughout the organisation.
- Participation of workers may result in beneficial suggestions that can be taken forward.
- Good practices can be adopted from peer industries and industry groups.
- Better trained and competent workers bring with them new knowledge and understanding of occupational health and safety-related issues.
- Enhancement of the OHSMS, keeping it up to date with legislative and industry changes.
- Improvements can also be achieved by simplification of processes.
By definition, ‘continual’ does not mean ‘continuous’, so it is not expected that improvements are taking place in all areas at all times. It allows for interruptions. Also, not all improvements have to be continual, they may be one-off corrective actions of non-conformances, or a re-organisation, or a reaction to incidents that have occurred. The timely investigation of incidents can prevent or reduce further incidents. The use of root cause analysis is mentioned specifically within the clause as a useful tool to identify the multiple contributory factors that lead to the immediate cause of an incident, exploring all the factors involved. Any corrective action needed should be determined in accordance with the hierarchy of controls.
There are numerous ways an organisation can continually improve their OH&S management system, enhancing performance, promoting a culture that supports the system, promoting the participation of workers in implementing actions. It is sometimes all too easy to forget the history of improvement in a busy workplace, ever moving forward to address the next issue that comes along. Therefore it is important to communicate success to workers and to retain documented information of changes that are made, as evidence of continual improvement.