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Case study: Health & safety communication compliant with OHSAS 18001

If your organization has an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System), you will be aware that “communication” is one of the mandatory elements of the standard. In our previous article, How to comply with OHSAS 18001 requirements, we looked at exactly what an organization has to do to meet the terms of the standard, but by examining a practical example of communication within an OH&SMS, we can see exactly how this is done, and also how good communication can enhance your organization’s health and safety performance. Let’s look in more detail.

Communication – Why and how?

Effective communication inside an organization’s OH&SMS can be the difference between success and failure. This became immediately obvious when working with an organization who recently acquired an electrical pallet-lifting truck to cope with a period of rapid business expansion that had to be matched by expansion in their warehouse area, including extra vertical racking space. Immediately on arrival of the new equipment, it was found to be an attraction for staff members, who ranged from curious all the way through to being willing to try and maneuver the new piece of equipment with absolutely no guidance and no training. In summary, this piece of equipment became a hazard, and the area involved became an area of huge risk. So, where does communication come into this real-life situation? Let’s take a look and see:

  • After consultation with the OH&SMS team, an intercom announcement was made asking all staff to refrain from entering the area where the truck was being stored.
  • An immediate communication was made to all staff by e-mail to forbid entry to the area holding the pallet-lifting truck, and temporary “no entry” signs were placed on the entrance to the area.

This allowed the OH&SMS representatives to start a critical process to mitigate the risk presented by the pallet-lifting truck, namely by raising a risk assessment against the situation – with the communication actions listed above recorded as “containment actions,” and followed by arranging training for the drivers, proper signage for the area, and a process document for all employees on how to request materials from the area, stressing that any unauthorized use of this equipment would become a disciplinary offense. Finally, the following communication actions were listed on the conclusion of the corrective action:

  • A summary of the risk assessment and corrective action was sent to all staff.
  • A new process document was posted on the organization’s document management system, with employees invited to read and electronically sign it.
  • Special 15-minute training segments were arranged for the next day to instruct, inform, and warn employees of the dangers of misuse of equipment and entering forbidden areas of the facility. This was recorded on the employees’ training register.
  • The corrective action was included in the periodic company newsletter to ensure all staff had the opportunity to read the details.
  • Feedback forms were given to employees to measure their understanding of the implemented changes.

All of the above actions were recorded on the OH&SMS and the results set for review at the next group meeting.

OH&SMS communication – The benefits

As you can see from the example above, effective and timely communication in the OH&SMS is more of a necessity than a benefit. When safeguarding the well-being of employees and the health and safety record of the organization, swift, decisive, and effective communication can be every bit as important as the action to reduce the risk that follows. Like all elements of the OHSAS 18001 standard, effectiveness of communication can and should be reviewed, improvement made, and the fundamentals of the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle followed. If you underestimate the importance of communication in your OH&SMS, you will ultimately endanger your workforce and stakeholders, and that is something that no organization should be prepared to do.

Why not use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to measure your system against the standard?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.