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Integrated safety, health and environmental management: An introduction
Integrated safety, health and environmental management: An introduction

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4.2 Why integrate management systems?

Integrating any management system with the business is essential if progress is to be made, but here we are concerned with integrating management systems with each other.

Managing a business continues to set new challenges and demands especially when viewed against:

  • significant competition;

  • high customer and community expectations;

  • returns on capital employed;

  • regulatory compliance;

  • executive liability risk.

Standards and legislation affecting health, safety, environment and quality assurance share many common elements that if effectively integrated will stimulate business improvement and risk reduction. Integration will expose areas of waste and non-value-added activity, and provide opportunities for rationalisation and/or removal of:

  • documentation;

  • certification audit and review procedures;

  • barriers across departments or functions.

Traditionally, standards and regulatory issues have been viewed as separate and specialist facets of management. The consequence of a separate approach is that actions and decisions are made in isolation and therefore are not optimal. Employees may be presented with a proliferation of information and even conflicting instructions which may put the company at risk. Bureaucracy can flourish; how many systems can you cope with? There also tends to be lack of ownership, with inevitable problems.

Look at the following situations and note the potential conflicts.

  • Carbon in an abatement system fitted to a tank vent to adsorb emissions may undergo auto-ignition and lead to a flashback to the tank, resulting in an explosion.

  • Walls around equipment to improve the working environment, such as to reduce noise from a compressor house, may allow gases to accumulate with resulting inhalation or fire risks. Similarly, walls on offshore platforms may form enclosures in which gases collect causing fire and explosion risks.

  • Low-lying pits, such as high bunds and pump pits to collect leaks from pump seals, may collect toxic and flammable gases with resulting dangers to personnel needing to work in such locations.

  • An underground fuel tank may reduce the fire hazard but increase the uncertainty about groundwater contamination. Moving the tank above ground reverses the relative risks.

An approach to integration in the processing industries may involve evaluating the potential impacts of continuous as well as accidental releases. These consequences can be addressed by developing an integrated approach to quality, environmental, health and safety management.

Interest in safety and health management systems grew for many reasons. The change from reactive to a proactive approach to management requires that risks should be identified and controlled before the first adverse event. Such an approach is in principle more effective, but also more challenging. Success demands the design and implementation of robust management systems that incorporate, among other things, clear policies, procedures for planning and implementing risk assessment and control, and suitable arrangements for monitoring and reviewing performance and so leading to continuous improvement.

Some people link quality, safety and environmental problems as having a common cause – entropy, a measure of the disorder or randomness in a system, from the second law of thermodynamics. Effective management systems are presented as a way to reduce entropy. Safety and environment are placed as subsets of quality and therefore responsive to a ‘quality approach’. In the mid 1990s the total quality management (TQM) concept was promoted as a suitable framework for integrating quality and safety to strengthen the management approach to safety. Major accidents such as Piper Alpha, Clapham and Kings Cross have been cited as the turning point in the realisation that strong proactive management systems are required to make any real impression on the reduction of accidents. Could the self-regulation approach of TQM and use of quality management tools bring about this change?

TQM has many strong parallels with environmental management. However, there are important differences between TQM and environmental management which mean that many quality initiatives are insufficient to deliver environmental improvement by themselves. The essence of the difference can be seen by asking the questions ‘Who is the customer?’ and ‘What is the objective?’ If the environment is the customer, then the definition of a satisfied customer becomes problematic. With TQM, an objective could be ‘zero defects’, which is relatively easy to define and measure. However, the only agreement about an objective of ‘zero environmental impacts’ may be its impossibility. We could consider breaches of environmental regulations as a possible objective. Starting with this as the comparison and widening the scope to include health and safety issues, the three dimensions may be compared as shown in Table 6.

Table 6 Comparable features of quality, environmental and safety systems
QualityEnvironmentSafety
Goal is zero defectsGoal is zero breaches of authorisations or environmental regulationsGoal is zero accidents
Customer complaintsCommunity complaintsSerious injuries
Event analysisEvent analysisIncident analysis
Documented policies, procedures and work instructionsDocumented policy, procedures, work instructions, authorisations and licencesWritten policies, procedures and guidelines
Quality circles, improvement teamsEnvironment committee, energy management team, waste reduction team, community liaison groupSafety committee
EmpowermentEmployee participationEmployee participation
Control chartsRun charts, statistical analysisStatistical analysis
All nonconformances are preventableAll emissions are preventableAll accidents are preventable
Internal auditsEnvironmental auditWorkplace inspections
Quality trainingEnvironmental training and awarenessSafety training
Quality recordsEnvironmental records, waste regulatory documents, emission recordsSafety records
Design for qualityDesign for environment, design for recycling, control of emissionsDesign for safety

Two international standards have been developed, one for quality assurance/management (BS EN ISO 9000 series) and one for environmental management (BS EN ISO 14000 series). Both standards integrate these functions within a business management framework and address areas analogous to health and safety for which national guides have been published as described earlier. In the UK, BS 8800 embodies the philosophy and approach of Successful Health and Safety Management prepared by the HSE, and other authoritative texts. Current management science theories suggest that business performance is improved in all areas, including health and safety, if it is measured and continuous improvement sought in an organised manner.