What a good safety management system looks like

I’m a big fan of minimising the rehashing of OH&S guides. In my WorkSafe Victoria days (the latter ones when I was doing guidance material editing) I did what I could to encourage adoption of other people’s good work.

cover indg275[1]And just today I found an example of a British Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guide on what a sexy SMS looks like that I think is about as good as it gets; particularly in the context of giving an OH&S newbie an excellent sense of what it means to deal with OH&S in a systematic way.

Loved the focus on critical questions to ask about key elements of an SMS; as opposed to a common bad habit of doing the thing I call a “knowledge dump” – asking every question you can think of that has any sort of relationship to the topic at hand.

Loved the way the guide related smart SMS evaluation to real-world business decisions. I gotta say (obviously with the benefit of hindsight) that governments are pretty hopeless at “relating” to business in guidance material. It’s a waste of white space to keep telling a reader why it’s awful to hurt workers. It’s a waste because the reader wouldn’t be a reader if they weren’t concerned about that.

The HSE guide takes the approach of comparing SMS decisions to day-to-day business decisions. Take for example these questions from the guide: “How much are you spending on health and safety and are you getting value for money? How much money are you losing by not managing health and safety?”  These are just a couple of examples of business-savvy questions in the guide. They show the author knows full well that crappy OH&S  management costs big bucks and they cut straight to the chase on questions about costs and losses. But, cleverly, the author leaves it at that, and includes other business related questions. A good move.

I’ve found (and I have to say I was surprised to find this out) that my clients – almost all small businesses – are not “consumed” by profitability. They want their businesses to work, they want to be able to pay their bills, but I’ve found that there is lots of angst about hurting workers. (Hmm…rather than go on anymore about this topic of small business motivators for safety, I think I’ll leave it for a separate post.) Back to the guide.

What is a real stand-out in the guide is the minimal use of the lazy adjectives like “suitable” and “appropriate”. We in OH&S-World use those mostly useless adjectives way too much in guidance material. The author of the guide avoids them like the plague. Grab yourself a free copy from ttp://tinyurl.com/obwzrg .

Col Finnie
col@finiohs.com
www.finiohs.com

Categories business, communication, government, OHS, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , , , ,

2 thoughts on “What a good safety management system looks like”

  1. A very good point about using the guide as a reference when putting together a documented system. I\’m right in the middle of doing one for a client.

    I\’m doing what I can to make sure the SMS properly matches the principles in the guide reviewed here (noting the good tight match with AS 4801) and the needs of the client. It\’s not a simple task by any means, but I hope this will be a system that means something to the client, as opposed to it being a lovely thick bunch of documents full of \”appropriate\” OH&S phrases that never gets looked at.

  2. Many safety professionals could benefit from reading this short guide regularly to keep them grounded. I think there are a couple of seminars that I didn\’t need to go to if I had read this first.

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