If you search, you can find many definitions for “Safety”. Merriam- Webster defines Safety as “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss”. Wikipedia states that Safety is the condition of a “steady state” of an organization or place doing what it is supposed to do.
On the other hand, Safety Management is defined as: “Managing business activities and applying principles, framework, processes to help prevent accidents, injuries and to minimize other risk” by Aviation Australia.
In almost all labor laws and regulations around the world, employers are required to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with certain standards, rules and regulations issued by a competent authority.
Importance of Safety for Organizations
In general, Safety is being managed in organizations for three main reasons: Moral, Financial, and Legal.
It is human nature that people would not like to see others hurt or injured. Employers, as humans, have a duty of care towards their employees, and should not let them become injured or ill due to their work.
In the UK alone, it costs the society more than £14 billion every year to help people recover from workplace accidents.
Any accident in the workplace will have a financial consequence as a small accident can result in lost time to the business which can inadvertently affect productivity and profits. Usually, accident costs can be incurred in direct and indirect costs, however, indirect costs can mount up to several times of the direct ones.
Direct Costs of an injury are clear and can be directly attributed to the accident or injury, including medical treatment, medicine, therapy, and employees’ compensation. Indirect Costs are unbudgeted expenses that a company has to endure unexpectedly. This includes training replacement employees, overtime, equipment loss, accident investigation, loss of productivity, absenteeism, in addition to damaging the public image of the organization and reducing its potential of winning new jobs.
Legal Compliance to the set Acts and Regulations is one of the important factors that organizations need to fulfill in order to avoid criminal and/or civil prosecutions and convictions.
Legally, the employer is responsible to provide his employees with an acceptable level of welfare, health and safety in the workplace “as far as is reasonably practicable”. In the light of that, organizations can set their own objectives and goals to meet or exceed the required compliance, ensuring a safe workplace.
Conventional Safety Management System
In addition to the above mentioned Employers' Responsibilities, regulations can set some detailed instructions and standards to be followed by the employers. Following are some examples of instructions:
In order to manage workplace safety, the organization should provide a written and published set of policies and procedures to be implemented. To ensure implementation, the organization appoints Safety Representative/s (Safety Manager). In some countries, the organization is required to appoint a “Safety Committee”, while the Safety Representative is to be elected by the Committee.
Modern Safety Management System
As we can see, the above mentioned methods of managing the safety and health of organizations (Conventional Method) seems to be effective when it comes to Legal Compliance. However, as stated earlier, it is up to the employer to just MEET or EXCEED the requirements set by the competent authority.
International Standardization Organization ISO (an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 165 national standards bodies) regularly develops and issues voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. One of these challenges is “Workplace Safety & Health”.
There is no legal requirement for any organization to follow any ISO Standard, however, regulators and governments count on ISO standards to help develop better regulation, knowing they have a sound basis. On the other hand, organizations voluntarily follow these standards for many reasons, such as more reliability, improved performance, better quality, risk reduction, sustainability, and more potential for innovation.
Nowadays, some organizations not only follow ISO standards and get certified, but also try to integrate as many standards as they can into an Integrated Management System (IMS). The most pursued ISO standards for implementation and integration are:
Benefits of Implementing IMS
Some of the benefits of an Integrated Management System (IMS) include:
Conclusion - More to Go
Whether an organization’s management implements the minimum safety requirements for legal compliance, follows a certain ISO Standard, or implements an IMS, it would not necessarily be a successful one if it doesn't set or implement the rules to resolve the “dilemma of the 2 Ps”: Production against Protection. Many organizations raise the slogan of “Safety First”, and obtain the finest management certification, while actually offering only a “Show”.
In actual situations, some organizations' management look at Safety as an accessory to decorate their organization. Such organizations seldom have the correct “safety culture”. They do not involve their employees from all levels into the creation and implementation of Safe Workplace aspects.
When correctly implemented, Safety can pay more than expected. In my future book, I shall demonstrate how Safety can be integrated into an organization's operations, how safety can benefit organizations in every respect, in addition to showcasing some successful ways to handle the dilemma of the 2 Ps, through switching from the concept of “Safety Management” to “Management Safety”.