Monitoring OH&S management system

In March 2018, ISO came forward with a new standard for Occupational health & safety management system, ISO 45001, is now available and taking forward the message of OHSAS. You can see an overview of how the two standards differ in the article entitled First glance at ISO 45001 – How different is it from OHSAS 18001? Amongst the changes that ISO 45001 brings is a much more expansive and prescriptive clause regarding the topic “Monitoring, measuring, analysis and evaluation,” which has a huge bearing on how organizations operate their internal OH&S (Operational Health and Safety) systems and, consequently, how efficient and impactful the performance of that OH&S system is. So, given the importance of this topic to OH&S performance, what exactly do we need to know about it, and how can we apply it intelligently to ensure our OH&S is efficient, displays continual improvement, and protects the health and well-being of the employees?

The first part of clause 9.1 clarifies exactly what is meant by “monitoring and measuring” and gives specific examples of what can be measured to meet the International Standard, such as measurement against objectives, continual improvement progress, monitoring of employee well-being through surveys, reported illnesses and injuries, prevalent trends, actions taken against these and the overall performance of the OH&S system itself. Critically, “competence” is also referenced here, as it is apparent that workforce and management competence ultimately will always have a bearing on overall OH&S performance, including identification of hazards and management and mitigation of risk.

Next, the standard deals with what must be monitored and measured to ensure legal compliance, ensuring not only that any relevant legislation is met, but that gaps are identified and addressed and records are kept up to date. Obviously, this is a critical part of any OH&S system, but legal requirements are not the only consideration; other examples such as corporate agreements and policies, insurance requirements, union-employer agreements, and general rules and regulations are also given as examples of aspects that can be measured to allow evaluation of your OH&S system.

Evaluation, against what?

Evaluation of legal requirements is a reasonably objective task, but evaluation of other aspects of performance discussed above is not quite so straightforward. To assist us here, the standard provides some examples, and while these criteria will need to be amended depending on each individual organization, the examples provided give a flavor of the type of comparison we can make to allow us to truly evaluate our system, for example:

  • Compare against other organizations – no other suggestion is made, but clearly, comparing against organizations of a similar size and in the same sector will provide a more accurate reflection of your performance.
  • Your own code, objectives, and stated rules – these include your company’s Statement of Applicability, vision statement, or agreement with shareholders and stakeholders.
  • Your own organizational standards – these may be specific to your sector; for instance, financial organizations may be bound by an internal financial code of conduct, while electronic manufacturers may be committed to being guided by IPC standards.

The ISO 45001 standard then provides guidance on indicators that can typically be used to measure criteria, such as:

  • A comparison methodology – if incidents are measured by severity, frequency, and occurrence, then it is clear that this could be a standard way of measuring performance now and in the future.
  • Corrective action or risk action completion – measurement of completion within time predicted or success rate is another accepted method of criteria measurement.

So, now that we fully understand the breakdown of these parts of the clause, is there anything else we need to be aware of?

Why to monitor?

To emphasize the importance of these components, the ISO 45001 standard actually provides a definition for each of the components in the title of this article individually, and it is highly recommended that anyone involved in the running of an OH&S reads this and becomes familiar with the detail of that analysis because when operating an OH&S system, the lines between “monitoring,” “measurement,” “analysis,” and “evaluation” can become blurred. The categories can be simplified as follows:

  • Monitoring: Checking of a process or control
  • Measuring: Assigning a value or number to the stated process
  • Analysis: The processing of data from the measuring process
  • Evaluation: The process undertaken to assess if the analysis and initial objectives are the same

Critically, the standard goes on to remind us of the importance of the above elements and that the surveillance of employee health and well-being is a vital part of the long-term success of any OH&S system. In order to be truly effective, the frequencies of the above elements should be aligned to the risk and opportunity identification and action process for “real time” actions to bring results and guarantee improvement.

Keep Objective in mind

As we all know, the overarching objectives of any OH&S system are to protect the employee, prevent incidents through identification and mitigation of risk, and ensure that continual improvement can be developed from the actions of the system itself. Monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation provide a strong basis for this achievement within the ISO 45001 standard in a similar way that the “Plan, Do, Check, Act” cycle underpins the ISO 9001 (quality management) and 14001 (environmental management) systems. Use this process wisely and in step with the related workings of your OH&S system and you will not only achieve your objectives, you will grow to understand them better, and that will be good news for everyone.