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Process approach application in OHSAS 18001 implementation of health & safety

If you are aware of the ISO family of standards, you may well be aware that adherence to the “process approach” is one of the fundamental principles, appearing in the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 27001 standards, amongst others. The good news is that the process approach is also applicable to OHSAS 18001, and that should make for considerable savings of time, money, and resources if you are implementing OHSAS 18001 with another management system, whether quality, environmental, or information security – or all of those together. So, that is good news, but what exactly is the process approach and how can we make sure we use it to our benefit?

The process approach – A general definition

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A process can be described as a series of activities that are connected by a similar methodology to produce a consistent product or service for a customer. Therefore, if your organization uses such a method to deliver quality and environmental elements of its strategic performance, it can easily be imagined that integrating your OH&S can make business sense in this situation.

Establishing the process approach within your organization, however, can take a series of defined steps to ensure consistency of product and service can be achieved:

  • Establish responsibility for process management: It is vital that responsibilities are established immediately for processes, including health and safety activities, within this structure. The process manager must understand your health and safety processes, change them, and have the knowledge to delegate tasks relating to the process. This includes mapping the process, allocating resources, and ensuring that continual improvement of your OH&SMS takes place.
  • Process definition: This is where critical process inputs and outputs must be defined, and all subsets of your supply chain and external and internal process must be considered. This will also include the methodologies your process will utilize, and all supporting information, whether it is documentation, flowcharts, visual aids, or any other methods deemed suitable. Critically, this phase should always include communication with and education of your workforce, especially where health and safety matters are concerned. It is vital that all stakeholders are aware of the details of the process used, as well as the desired outcomes for the organization within this methodology.
  • Identify the needs of your customer: This speaks for itself: if your customer is not consulted – and ultimately satisfied – then the process approach is failing for your organization, and this includes prevention of hazards and accidents in terms of your OH&SMS.
  • Review and measure: Again, this part is critical in both customer satisfaction and ensuring improvement of performance. It is only after review of the outputs of your OH&SMS and associated processes takes place that actions for improvement can be considered and consultation with customers can happen to ensure their satisfaction.
  • Improve performance: After review of the outputs of the system takes place, opportunities for improvement will be evident. This improvement underpins not only the OHSAS 18001 standard, but also the family of ISO standards, such as 9001, 14001, and 27001.

As you can see, the reasons for using the process approach within your management systems, and especially to combine your OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) activities with the rest of your business activities is compelling. But, how do we ensure that we can do this correctly and derive maximum benefit from the process?

Using the process approach to your benefit

In an article for the 9001Academy entitled ISO 9001: The importance of the process approach, we looked at the benefits that this approach could bring to your QMS (Quality Management System). The benefits to your OH&SMS are very similar, but to attain these there are certain considerations you will need to make to ensure your processes are truly aligned. Ensure your integrated processes are compatible, compare your processes, and ensure that the inputs and outputs are comparable and that your organization can align its resources and methodologies to produce the desired results.

Integrating your OH&SMS into the process approach can bring huge benefits, but it is vital to ensure that resources and time are not wasted by incorrect alignment of processes, or deviation from the processes that are established under this system. Integrating your OH&SMS and its activities into the process approach can ensure consistency of performance and a culture of continual improvement, which can only benefit your workforce and employees, and ultimately your customers.

Why not use our free  OHSAS 18001 implementation diagram to see which elements of health & safety management you need to include?

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