Toward a healthier manufacturing industry

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Workplace health and safety hazards can be costly (to lives and the bottom line), but the good news is that they are largely preventable if the right precautions are taken. Here, EEF representative Mike Denison explains.

If you spend every workday sitting in front of your computer with the occasional walk to the break room to top off your coffee, safety likely isn’t an issue that’s top of mind. Yet, for millions of workers across the globe, their jobs can put them in some extremely high-risk environments where valuing safety can mean the difference between life and death.

The manufacturing industry is a large but diverse part of the employment sector. It is also one of the industries with the most workplace injuries and fatalities. But what can managers do about it? Research shows that 99 % of all accidents are preventable. So creating a workplace that targets zero injuries is not a gimmick, but it requires leadership to engage and challenge the workforce to aim for safety.

Health and safety should be a high priority for anyone involved in manufacturing, according to Mike Denison from EEF, the trade association which represents 20 000 companies in the engineering and manufacturing sector. ISOfocus spoke to Mike Denison, who also participated in the development of ISO 45001, about how the new occupational health and safety standard will impact the manufacturing sector and help ensure a healthy, safe workforce and a healthier bottom line. Here’s what he had to say.

ISOfocus: What specific occupational health and safety risks are related to the manufacturing ­sector, and how will ISO 45001 help address these challenges?
Photo: EEF
Mike Denison
Mike Denison from EEF.

Mike Denison: Manufacturing has a diverse risk profile. Whilst it has traditional risks with vehicle movements, manual handling and so on, it also has a couple of significant risk areas, namely machinery and wider ergonomic issues such as repetitive movements. In its section on hazard identification, ISO 45001 asks businesses to look at hazards posed by “the design of work areas, processes, installations, machinery/equipment, operating procedures and work organization, including their adaptation to the needs and capabilities of the workers involved”. This, combined with a requirement to assess “how work is organized, social factors (including workload, work hours, victimization, harassment and bullying), leadership and the culture in the organization”, should push businesses to probe into these areas.

Maintenance activities within manufacturing often cause problems because, as in many businesses, “production is king”. This can result in pressure to cut corners and take risks to get production up and running and frequently involves the use of contractors. ISO 45001 requires businesses to identify hazards posed by “non-routine activities and situations” and a clause on “Procurement” (which includes a subclause on “Contractors”) should also help to steer things in the right direction.

What’s more, the clause on “Management of change” is particularly timely. As modern manufacturing innovates and moves into areas such as collaborative robots and nanotechnology, it forces businesses to consider the impacts of new products, services and processes to keep on top of their risks.

In your view, why is the publication of ISO 45001 so important?

Postal workers sorting packages.ISO 45001 takes health and safety global, as it’s the first internationally agreed standard for occupational health and safety management. Now, by gaining certification to the standard, there will be international recognition of where your business stands in terms of managing risks. There is great potential to improve working conditions and help businesses become more sustainable, supporting growth and competitiveness.

Health and safety around the world faces many challenges, and each year over two million workers lose their lives because of accidents and occupational disease. This is clearly not acceptable. ISO 45001 has a role in changing that statistic, because it puts health and safety at the core of the business strategy and will generally change the way we think about well-being at work.

The new standard also sparks conversations that focus on business impact, business risk and conducting business in a moral and ethical way. And with an international benchmark in place, it is likely more businesses will feel encouraged to take the step towards a health and safety management system.

What does it mean for businesses and HSCE managers?

At EEF, we use a similar approach to managing health, safety, the climate and the environment (HSCE). The publication of ISO 45001 brings health and safety requirements in line with other core ISO standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 27001 (information security), all of which have been revised to incorporate a new management approach.

Back view of a fire fighter walking on a bridge.This new suite of standards simplifies how a business and its risks are managed. All the standards use the high-level risk management framework of Annex SL, which provides a common structure that facilitates the integration of multiple management systems into a company’s business strategy to improve efficiencies and effectiveness.

ISO management standards follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle that most businesses and HSCE managers will already be familiar with. However, the more recent versions support HSCE managers with one of the main challenges they face – support from above – as they require leadership from the top, which includes taking ownership and demonstrating a commitment to occupational health and safety. ISO 45001 puts the emphasis on an occupational health strategy and how this needs to link into the business’s overall strategy and the context it operates in.

ISO 45001 will also ensure that companies recognize and embrace the importance of worker involvement and worker consultation in improving working conditions through better engagement of the workforce.

How will its adoption impact small and medium-sized enterprises?

The majority of businesses worldwide are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). ISO 45001 has been developed with this in mind, though it’s also applicable to larger and more complex businesses. The standard’s approach works on the same risk-based model as was previously used in OHSAS 18001, so the fundamentals should be familiar.

EEF will encourage SMEs to see ISO 45001 as an opportunity. An ISO 45001-certified system will bring global recognition to their risk management approach, which attests to the moral and ethical credentials of the business as a whole and will give them an edge when competing for international contracts.

How easy will be the migration to ISO 45001 for users of OHSAS 18001?

Due to the many similarities of ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001, it is expected that the migration to ISO 45001 by businesses already certified to OHSAS 18001 will be relatively painless.

In addition, because of its high-level approach, companies will find it easier to integrate with the other standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, as mentioned above. This should benefit all businesses, but especially smaller enterprises that are struggling to manage compliance with more than one standard.

Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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