The topic I bring to you today, Aligning Safety and Health Objectives for Leadership in Your Organization, was born out of what I am seeing in a number of the clients that I work with. I have had the opportunity to use the Occupational Safety and Health Assessment System (or OHSAS 18001) with several of my clients. OHSAS 18001 is what many believe to be the precursor to a new ISO standard on safety management. One of the most important aspects of OHSAS 18001 refers to the creation of a comprehensive risk assessment for the organization. There are at least two dozen or so other questions directly tied to the completion of the risk assessment and setting organizational objectives.
What I see in many of my client organizations is that, first, very few are performing a comprehensive risk assessment. There are generally only pieces of a risk assessment that has been performed. These companies learn from their own experience and accident records and others' experience what sorts of things have happened in the past; some have inventories of materials, equipment, energy sources, occupations and tasks; many have long lists of regulatory inspection items they review often and with which they attempt to remain in compliance. And yet there is not the common thread that weaves through all this to bring it together into one comparative piece.
Since we are going to be looking at all of this in light of, not only safety objectives, but the business objectives of our organization, there is something that would be good for us to remember. Peter Drucker, a management consultant and prolific writer on management, said, "The duty of business is to survive, and the guiding principle of business economics is not the maximization of profit – it is the avoidance of loss".
At this point I think we must revisit what the business of safety is, what are the "overarching goals that attach themselves to our profession", as Fred Manuele puts it (Manuele 11). According to Mr. Manuele, safety professionals exist only for the following:
To anticipate, identify and evaluate hazards
To give advice on the avoidance, elimination, or control of hazards to attain a state for which the risks are judged to be acceptable
The other thing that I saw with my clients was that, even though they may have had safety and health objectives for their facilities that addressed certain risks they had identified, there was a major disconnect between the safety.