When you collect, treat and recycle as much waste as Biffa you need to know your health and safety standards are second to none. Gaining certification to OHSAS 18001 with NQA meant Biffa could go beyond self-assessment to meet independently established criteria. What’s more, the need for continual improvement required by OHSAS 18001 led to a 27% reduction in serious accidents in 2011, proving that after 8 years, working with NQA to keep improving is still paying dividends.
Biffa wanted to go beyond auditing to its own standards and strive for best practice health and safety, judging performance against independently established criteria and benchmarking against other companies.
Biffa provides an essential service to a wide variety of commercial, industrial and public sector customers throughout the UK, helping them to meet their legal obligations and corporate social responsibility commitments.
The work carried out by Biffa’s employees can be physically tough and, in some cases, dangerous. Therefore, to ensure their safety, the company is committed to health and safety best practice in order to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Since 2005 Biffa has been certified to OHSAS 18001, the internationally recognised assessment specification for occupational health and safety management systems. NQA’s health and safety sector manager, Jonathan Wilson, explains,
"OHSAS 18001 establishes a management system to eliminate or minimise risk to employees and other interested parties who may be exposed to dangers associated with its activities. It includes the ongoing review of policies and objectives as well as regular auditing of health and safety management performance."
One step further
Biffa’s certification demonstrates its commitment to a safer working environment and the protection of its employees against injury at work. It helps the company identify regulatory requirements and helps to enforce procedures for compliance with legislation. Prior to certification Biffa already had a rigorous health and safety policy in place. Asked why it felt it necessary to become compliant with OHSAS 18001, Biffa’s head of safety, health and quality, Matt Humphreys, responds,
"Although we were carrying out internal audits, we were only auditing to our own standards. The advantage of obtaining OHSAS 18001 is that we are now audited to agreed standards that allow us to strive for best practice as well as benchmarking ourselves against other companies."
Certification also has significant business benefits, as many of Biffa’s customers insist that it is certified to an agreed standard and often stipulate OHSAS 18001 as minimum criteria.
Biffa believes in the importance of setting regular targets and in 2011 it set a goal to reduce serious accidents by 15 per cent. It actually achieved a drop of 27 per cent and is looking to accomplish a further 10 per cent reduction in 2012. Furthermore, it has also doubled its reporting of near misses and hazards, which help stakeholders learn lessons before something more serious occurs.
Engaging with employees is key to achieving Biffa’s health and safety targets and it is therefore essential for all members of staff to be up to speed with the latest developments. Humphreys states,
"In terms of securing stakeholder buy in we ensure that all our team members are part of the process and publish information regarding OHSAS 18001 on our intranet. We also routinely distribute information about audit findings and go as far as to discuss the standards at board level in order to constantly promote its benefits at the very top of the organisation which has helped achieve senior management commitment."
Working closely with a chosen certification body is a vital ingredient for success and Matt Humphreys concludes,
"We have always had a very strong relationship with NQA and we work closely with them to achieve our goals. NQA understands our business and is well positioned to advise us on best practice and the way to continually improve. Based on our experience I would advise any business that takes health and safety seriously to consider OHSAS 18001 certification with NQA."