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Improving health and safety performance metrics

04 March 2015
As the internationally recognised assessment specification for occupational health and safety management systems, OHSAS 18001 is the most effective way to develop an accident prevention and risk management strategy. Rob Shepherd explains the benefits of certification and how it creates safer working environments by improving performance in this area.

It is with disturbing regularity that we hear or read about accidents in the workplace that could have been prevented. While the common perception of health and safety legislation is that it is excessive and onerous, it is important to remember that it exists for a very important reason – to prevent injury and loss of life.

Big issue

Anyone who thinks that the issue of health and safety at work is overplayed should consider the fact that in the 12 months to September 2014 there were 133 people killed at work, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Furthermore, there were 78,000 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR, 629,000 other injuries at work and 28.2 million working days lost due to work related illness and injury. While the human cost of such events is obvious, the HSE claims that the estimated cost of injuries and ill health during this period was £14.2bn.

A growing number of organisations are addressing this issue by having a rigorous and robust accident prevention and risk management strategy in place. OHSAS 18001 is the leading assessment specification for occupational health and safety management systems, and it ensures that the hazards and risks associated with an organisation’s activities, products and services are systematically identified, assessed, controlled, monitored and continuously improved.

Helping hand

Implementing OHSAS 18001 involves establishing 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 covers both physical and mental wellbeing and includes the monitoring of health and safety management failures, auditing of performance and regular reviews of policies and objectives.

Head of NQA, Kevan Parker, believes that all stakeholders can benefit. He states,

‘OHSAS 18001 certification clearly and unambiguously demonstrates a company's commitment to providing a safer working environment and protecting its employees, as far is feasibly possible, against the possibility of injury at work. Heath and safety ranks as one of the most important elements of an organisation’s operational activities. By creating objectives, targets and documented responsibilities, awareness of the issue becomes ingrained in an organisation’s ethos and culture.’

Waste not, want not

One of the companies that NQA has worked with on OHSAS 18001 certification is Biffa. As the nation’s leading integrated waste management operator, it provides collection, treatment, recycling and energy generation services for a wide variety of commercial, industrial and public sector customers. It also helps them to meet their legal obligations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments through an ever-growing portfolio of sustainable waste management solutions.

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 adhering to the latest health and safety practices.

Long-term planning

Biffa has been certified to OHSAS 18001 for over 10 years but prior to certification it already had a health and safety policy in place.

When asked why it was 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 doing so to our own standards. The advantage of obtaining OHSAS 18001 is that we are now audited to agreed external standards that allow us to strive for best practice and we can also benchmark ourselves against other companies.’

Certification also has significant business benefits, as many of Biffa’s customers insist that it is accredited to an agreed standard and often stipulate OHSAS 18001 as a minimum criterion. In this respect being required to demonstrate continually improving standards encourages the company to enhance its management system on an ongoing basis.

Hitting the target

Biffa believes in the importance of setting targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor and assess its performance, and the results are impressive. From April 2013 to March 2014 it lowered the amount of RIDDOR accidents by 13 per cent compared to the previous year. During the same period it also reduced its lost time incidents by 30 per cent and its minor injuries by over 20 per cent.

Matt Humphreys is convinced that health and safety practices should take into account the ways that people work, as well as the technology and tools they use. He says,

‘The most important element of OHSAS 18001 is the need for continual improvement. To maintain certification we need to learn lessons on a day-to-day basis.’

Getting the message across

In order to promote its message about the benefits of OHSAS 18001 certification, NQA’s Kevan Parker is getting set to present conference sessions at the forthcoming Health & Safety Events. The first takes place on 24th March at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, while the second will be held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow on 22nd April.

In Improving Health & Safety Performance Metrics with OHSAS 18001, he will explain how it can drive continual improvement of incident levels, accidents, near misses, hazards and lost working days. Parker will also be joined by Biffa’s Matt Humphreys on the speaker panel for a Q&A where he will share his experiences regarding the practicalities of achieving improved performance results.

Parker concluded, ‘NQA’s vast experience has highlighted that reducing risk in the work environment requires diligence and commitment towards good and responsible health and safety management. I look forward to explaining some of the issues surrounding this important standard and offering some useful tips for successful implementation.’

To get a free quote for OHSAS 18001 contact us today.

Author: Rob Shepherd