Pulp and Paper Canada

The Case for Safety Management Optimization

October 1, 2002  By Pulp & Paper Canada

The time for safety management optimization is here; the best possible safety performance at the least possible cost to the organizationStatus Quo: But first, let’s look at the present status of gener…

The time for safety management optimization is here; the best possible safety performance at the least possible cost to the organization

Status Quo: But first, let’s look at the present status of general safety management thinking. The current preoccupation of the world’s major workplace safety institutions and standards organizations is to establish standards for Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) content, activities and performance measurement. There is general agreement on generic content and activity. The measurement of OHSMS performance seems to be focusing beyond the conventional, after-the-fact “lagging indicators” such as lost time injury/illness rates and/or total recordables to “leading indicators” (positive, pro-active) that measure safety activity/actions designed to prevent accidents/incidents before they occur. Such activity as inspections, incident investigation, employee attitude surveys, employee training in hazard identification and reporting are a few examples. In addition, there is new emphasis on making the business case for safety management by looking at the financials, i.e. contribution to corporate goals and profitability and safety spending subject to corporate return on investment (ROI) considerations. All three indicators are essential measures of performance for any employer planning to optimize safety management performance.


Optimization Benefits – Lower industry quartile accident rates and costs: Safety management optimization seeks to achieve the best possible safety performance on a “real-time”, continuous basis, employing the most cost-effective means. In practical terms for a mill, this means achieving recordable accident rates in at least the lowest quartile for its industry group/classification at the lowest possible cost to the mill. All Canadian mills have some form of safety programs that have evolved over the years, mainly driven by moral and/or legal requirements. Most are loose and slow to respond to exposures to hazards. They are all ripe for optimization. Optimization will lower their total cost of OHS risk (W.C. insurance premiums, uninsured and indirect costs, risk/hazard control costs and administration costs). Most, if not all mills don’t know exactly how much safety (or a lack of it) is costing them, and why. Optimization provides system diagnostics and performance measurement on a daily/shift basis. It gives the mill daily information on what prevention activity is working and what is not, which activity is cost-effective, etc. This cuts response time drastically in fine tuning prevention activity (risk control loops). Remedial action is performed with minimum delay after a hazard or sub standard performance is flagged by any employee, not weeks or months later.

Safety Management – The process to be measured and optimized: Safety Management is simply a process dedicated to identifying and controlling hazards and risks to a company’s people, equipment, materials and environment. Optimization of the process is founded on an effective health and safety management system illustrated below in Fig. 1. Critical to any optimization effort is the timely feedback on management system performance!

Performance measurement should cover all elements of Fig.1:

Input: measures the hazard burden;

Process: measures the success of the system activities;

Outcomes: Measures the failures or losses.

If performed objectively, a daily/shift count and short analysis of uncontrolled hazards/(INPUT) by ALL employees and management is probably the best overall system performance indicator. You can’t manage what you can’t see! Unreported hazards go unmanaged while non-existant hazards means no loss exposures. Data collection and analysis of this magnitude requires good but not necessarily expensive information systems. More on this another time!

John E. Little, B.Eng, CRM, is a risk management consultant specializing in safety management optimization technology and software. (jelittle@solabs.com)

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