Implementing a safety management system that accounts for human error and prevents serious injuries, illness, or fatalities in the workplace can be challenging. The author suggests applying the principles of von Bertalanffy General System Theory (1969) to take a systems approach to safety management systems. The article highlights the importance of establishing standards focusing on controlling risk to acceptable levels and implementing precursor and Serious Injury or Fatality (SIF) analysis to identify and analyze potential safety incidents. Safety Performance Indicators (SPIs) are also discussed as measurements to assess the safety performance of an organization or system. Overall, the article aims to provide readers with a comprehensive guide to implementing a safety management system that protects human life and accounts for human error without interrupting the intended process.
Over the past few years, there has been much talk about safety management systems. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) publish occupational safety and health management system standards. Several governmental entities also publish guidelines. The blueprint is there, but how do you implement a safety management system to address the occupational risk associated with your business?
By applying the principles of von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory (1969), we can take a systems approach to our safety management systems. Using systems management techniques like Demings PDCA (plan do check act) method of continuous improvement for quality, system management can be implemented to address the risk associated with any industry (Moen, n.d.). The systems management approach considers the human variable to ensure the safety management system is designed with the capacity to allow for human error without interrupting the intended process. Reducing overall error and ultimately protecting human life.
Systems management focuses on continuous system monitoring and adjusting the needs of the occupation field as applied. Consider the following approach to implementing and managing your safety management system.
Occupational health and safety management systems
A quick aside on ANSI/ASSP Z10.0-2019 & ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems as a blueprint. Several other frames work to consider when assessing your safety management needs. The DNV GL International safety rating system, the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) five-star safety and health management system. ISMEC Identify set standards of accountability and measurement. Measure. Evaluate. And correct. Generally, what gets measured gets done. The safety system should be monitored for performance against established standards. This data should be quantified before an event occurs (McKinnon, 2017). Any framework that fits your business need is expectable as long it is focused on system improvements that account for human error, not systems designed to change behavior. Even in the late ’90s and early 2000s, behavior safety experts shifted from behavioral-based safety to system safety (Manuele, 2008). Somewhere in every incident, a system redundancy, failsafe, or the system itself fails to account for the fact that people make mistakes (Conklin, 2019). The system should be designed to fit people and protect them while allowing for optimal efficiency.
Systems Safety Standard Operating Policies/Procedure/ Program (standards).
By establishing standards, moving forward, I will refer to all policies, procedures, and programs as standards; ultimately, your system is most effective when measurables are established to benchmark standards performance in preventing interruptions of intended outcomes. The goal of the systems manager is to build capacity within the system to allow for errors within the process so that the intended outcome of the system is not interrupted (Conklin, 2019). Standards should focus on controlling risk to acceptable levels. The target should never be zero, as it is statistically impossible for an organization. When implementing standards, the best practice is establishing standards that prevent serious injuries, illness, or fatalities (SIIF) events.
Precursor & SIF analysis.
Precursor and Serious Injury or Fatality (SIF) analysis is used to identify and analyze potential safety incidents to prevent them from occurring. Precursors are events or conditions that indicate a potential incident but have not yet resulted in harm. SIF events can potentially result in severe injury or fatality.
The analysis involves identifying precursors and SIF events and analyzing them to determine the root causes and contributing factors. This helps organizations understand the potential risks associated with their operations and implement controls to prevent SIF events.
To conduct a precursor and SIF analysis, organizations need to thoroughly understand their operations, including the hazards and risks associated with each task. They also need a system to capture and report incidents, near misses, and unsafe conditions.
The analysis can be conducted through various methods, such as interviews, observation, data analysis, and hazard analysis. The goal is to identify the underlying factors that contribute to precursors and SIF events and develop strategies to prevent them from occurring.
Overall, precursor and SIF analysis is an essential tool for organizations to proactively identify and mitigate potential safety incidents, with the ultimate goal of preventing serious injuries or fatalities in the workplace.
Safety Performance Indicators.
Safety Performance Indicators (SPIs) are measurements that are used to assess the safety performance of an organization or system. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provide guidelines for developing SPIs.
According to ANSI, SPIs are “quantifiable measures used to evaluate the performance of a safety management system and to monitor the effectiveness of safety activities.” These measures can include metrics such as the number of incidents, severity, and rate of incidents over a certain period.
ISO’s guidelines for SPIs are similar, defining them as “a measurable value used to demonstrate the effectiveness or efficiency of a safety management system, activity or process in achieving specific safety objectives.” ISO suggests that SPIs should be selected based on their relevance to safety objectives and ability to provide meaningful data for analysis.
Examples of SPIs can include:
- Lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR): The number of lost injuries (resulting in time away from work) per million hours worked.
- Total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR): The number of injuries that result in medical treatment, lost time, or restricted work activity per million hours worked.
- Near miss reporting rate: The number of reported near misses (incidents that could have resulted in injury or damage but did not) per month or year.
- Safety culture surveys: Surveys that measure employee attitudes and perceptions of workplace safety.
- Compliance with safety procedures: Percentage of employees who follow safety procedures and protocols.
Overall, using SPIs can help organizations identify areas for improvement, track progress toward safety goals, and communicate safety performance to stakeholders.
Monitoring safety systems vs. Measuring safety systems
Monitoring and measuring safety systems are essential to managing safety in any organization.
Monitoring safety systems involves ongoing observations of safety-related activities to ensure they function correctly and effectively. This may include regular inspections, audits, or walkthroughs of safety procedures, equipment, and systems to detect potential hazards, non-compliances, or deviations from the safety standards. Monitoring safety systems aims to identify problems in real-time and take corrective actions before incidents or accidents occur.
On the other hand, measuring safety systems involves collecting and analyzing safety data to assess the effectiveness of the safety management system and its performance. This may include measuring the frequency and severity of incidents, conducting root cause analysis, and analyzing the safety culture and climate of the organization. The purpose of measuring safety systems is to identify trends, evaluate the safety management system’s performance, and set safety performance targets.
Both monitoring and measuring safety systems are essential for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. By monitoring safety systems, organizations can identify and mitigate potential hazards in real-time, while measuring safety systems allows organizations to assess their safety performance and identify areas for improvement. By combining these two approaches, organizations can continuously improve their safety management system and ensure their safety performance indicators are met.
In conclusion, implementing a safety management system is a crucial step for any organization that wants to reduce risks associated with its operations and ensure the safety of its employees. The principles of von Bertalanffy’s General System Theory and systems management techniques, like Deming’s PDCA method, provide a framework for designing safety management systems capable of accounting for human error without interrupting the intended process. The safety management system should be designed to fit people and protect them while allowing for optimal efficiency. Establishing standards, conducting precursor and Serious Injury or Fatality (SIF) analysis, and using Safety Performance Indicators (SPIs) are all essential components of a comprehensive safety management system that can help organizations prevent incidents and reduce risks to acceptable levels. By implementing these techniques and using the available guidelines, organizations can improve their safety performance and create a safer workplace for their employees.
ANSI/ASSP Z16.1-2020. (2020). Definitions and Nomenclature Used for Safety and Health Incident Reporting and Classification. Retrieved from https://webstore.ansi.org/standards/asq/z161-2020
Conklin, T. (2011). Pre-accident investigations: Better questions. CRC Press.
American National Standards Institute. (2018). Z10-2019: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. Retrieved from https://webstore.ansi.org/standards/asq/z10-2019
Conklin, T. (2019). Pre-Accident Investigations: Better Questions—An Applied Approach to Operational Learning. Routledge.
DNV GL. (n.d.). International safety rating system (ISRS). Retrieved from https://www.dnvgl.com/services/international-safety-rating-system-isrs-603
International Electrotechnical Commission. (2015). IEC 61511-1:2016 Functional safety – Safety instrumented systems for the process industry sector. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/standard/75187.html
International Organization for Standardization. (2018). ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/standard/63787.html
International Organization for Standardization. (2013). ISO/IEC Guide 51:2014 Safety aspects – Guidelines for their inclusion in standards. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/standard/52968.html
International Organization for Standardization. (2018). ISO 22301:2019 Societal security — Business continuity management systems. Retrieved from https://www.iso.org/standard/75186.html
Manuele, F. A. (2008). Behavioral safety and systems safety: Opposites or complementary? Professional Safety, 53(9), 30-37.
McKinnon, M. C. (2017). The importance of systems safety and occupational health and safety management. IOSH Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.ioshmagazine.com/2017/07/13/importance-systems-safety-and-occupational-health-and-safety-management
Moen, H. (n.d.). System approach to safety management systems. The University of Texas at Arlington. Retrieved from https://www.uta.edu/conhi/_doc/CNHP-Safety-Management-Systems.pdf
National Occupational Safety Association. (n.d.). Five-star occupational health and safety management system. Retrieved from https://www.nosa.co.za/products-and-services/occupational-health-and-safety/ohs-management-systems/5-star-system