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Dear Subscriber,

How good is your occupational health and safety management system?

It's a newer way of talking about age-old issues: How do you set up a workplace health and safety program that works? That reduces hazards and injuries, gets managers and employees involved. . . What are the critical components of this program?

There's no one answer. In fact, at least two dozen occupational health and safety management systems have been published. Australia has its SafetyMap (Safety Management Achievement Program). Jamaica, Japan, Korea, The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, and Spain have various rules, guidelines and codes.

Some are industry specific, like the Responsible Care program for chemical manufacturers. The U.S. Navy has its own, called the Process Review and Measurement System. The American Industrial Hygiene Association published its occupational health and safety management system in 1996.

Now management systems standards-setting is heating up even more. . . There's a race on to see whose standard for occupational health and safety will be the one to emerge as the consensus global standard. The health and safety version of the ISO 9000 quality standard, or the ISO 14000 environmental management standard.

How popular are these standards? At the end of 2000, at least 408,631 ISO 9000 certificates had been awarded in 158 countries. But only 12 percent went to North American work sites. Why? Many U.S. firms, particularly smaller ones, don't face economic pressure to conform to global standardization. And many are satisfied with their own internal systems.

Total number of ISO 14000 certificates awarded by the end of 2000: 22,897, vs. 14,106 in 1999. That's a 62 percent increase. Only 7 percent were awarded to North American work sites.

OSHA efforts. . .

But this story is not just for Fortune 500 multinationals. OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (a type of management system) keeps growing. From 83 work sites in 1991 to 598 in 2001. . . more than 800 sites in total when state VPPs are included. And most of these sites have less than 500 employees.

OSHA still has plans, long-term and vague, for an injury and illness prevention rule (another name for a management system). OSHA is now studying the scope and details of this rule, and the hazards it will address. A proposal is scheduled for the end of 2002, but will likely take longer.

Three to watch. . .

International standards are developing more rapidly. And in a shrinking economic world, a global standard could one day be yours to interpret and implement. Here are three to watch:

1) Gaining publicity is OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series). Crafted by a group of consultants including BSI and Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and based on the British Standard 8800, it was released in 1999. Very similar to ISO 14001, but it's not officially sanctioned by ISO or anyone else. 18001 follows the plan-do-check-review process of most management systems.

18001 is being aggressively marketed to companies, and countries, by heavyweight international consultants like BSI (sales of $320 million, staff of 4,900, operating in 110 countries, HQ in the United Kingdom), DNV (5,500 employees, 300 offices in 100 countries, HQ in Oslo, Norway), BVQi, KPMG Consulting, Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance, and Moody International.

BSI estimates it has registered about 100 companies worldwide to 18001, only a few in North America. What's registration cost? Depends on size of company and risks. Perhaps $10,000 for a 250-employee site with medium risks.

2) Next out of the gate: the International Labor Office's (ILO) guidelines on occupational safety and health management systems (ILO/OSH 2001). Issued in 2001. Multinationals might find the ILO standard hard to ignore. It's set up as a template for national guidelines and is intended to provide the main framework for occupational health and safety rules in some countries.

3) Expected next year: a proposed U.S. version of an occupational safety and health management system standard. No, not from OSHA. And its requirements will be voluntary, not mandatory. This proposal will come from an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committee (called Z10) made up of business, labor, academic and other representatives. But no consultants have votes.

Will ISO act?

Will ISO adopt one of these standards to follow 9000 and 14000? Will it write a safety and health management standard of its own? Or combine quality, environmental, and health and safety into one integrated standard? As the world shrinks, it seems a matter of when, not if, this will happen. Twice before ISO has debated the need for a health and safety management standard. A call for a H&S standard was defeated by one vote the last time out.

Tools to use. . .

OSHA's Web site ( is a good place to start to learn about health and safety management systems. Search using keywords "management systems" and you'll get info on OSHA's 1989 Voluntary Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs (the basis for VPP requirements). Also OSHA's failed 1998 attempt at setting mandatory program requirements. And OSHA's 1996 Program Evaluation Profile (PEP). OSHA's site has an entire section devoted to management systems.

PEP was a tool used by inspectors for a short time on a trial basis. Can be a tool for you, too. It breaks down a program into these elements (typical of all management systems):

1) Management Leadership and Employee Participation.

2) Workplace Analysis.

3) Accident and Record Analysis.

4) Hazard Prevention and Control.

5) Emergency Response.

6) Safety and Health Training.

You can evaluate how you're faring in each of these areas (on a scale of 1 to 5) using specific criteria set by OSHA. 1 means no program or ineffective program. 5 equates to an outstanding program. Here's how OSHA describes employee participation worthy of a "1" rating:

"Worker participation in workplace safety and health concerns is not encouraged. Incentive programs are present which have the effect of discouraging reporting of incidents, injuries, potential hazards or symptoms. Employees/employee representatives are not involved in the safety and health program."

Here's a level "5" employee participation program:

"Workers and their representatives participate fully in development of the safety and health program and conduct of training and education. Workers participate in audits, program reviews conducted by management or third parties, and collection of samples for monitoring purposes, and have necessary training and education to participate in such activities. Employer encourages and authorizes employees to stop activities that present potentially serious safety and health hazards."

So how are you doing?

Here's another way to assess how well you're doing in putting together a safety and health management system: Do you have written, documented procedures in place for each of these areas (common to most all management systems)? Do you audit each area and evaluate performance?

  • Active leadership
  • Expectations & involvement
  • Goal setting & action planning
  • Communications
  • Employee involvement
  • Employee accountability
  • Hazard identification & elimination
  • Safe practices
  • Incident investigations
  • Training
  • Planing for safe conditions

Links to learn by. . .

To learn more about the 18001 management system, use keyword OHSAS 18001 on a good search engine like Google, Alta Vista, etc. and many of the consultants' Web sites will pop up.

More on the ILO/OSH 2001 standard can be found at

More on the ANSI Z10 work underway, in fact minutes of all committee meetings and the roster of committee members, can be found at the American Industrial Hygiene Association's Web site ( under ANSI committees heading on the home page.

Here is a link to the Australia's Safety MAP (, which some professionals like for its ease of use.

Check OSHA's homepage under Outreach for the VPP link, where you'll get good info on assessing your organization's readiness to tackle a management system.

The state of Washington's Department of Labor and Industries has Safety and Health Core Rules that also detail basic building blocks of occupational safety and health management systems (

There's a growing buzz about management systems in 2002. One of the hotter topics in safety and health today. To benchmark, to build one, or to just learn what the buzz is about, the Internet is a marvelous library.

Dave Johnson is the ISHN E-News editor. He can be reached at, (610) 666-0261; fax (610) 666-1906.

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