Category Archives: ISO45001

Working from home Ergonomically

Most of us have been working from home for several weeks now. While working from home a couple of days here and there is fine for most of us, we now run into an odd situation that we really need to think about having a proper workplace while working from home. Still, a number of people are working either on the kitchen table or on some sort of desk. While this is the case, most companies have strict policies when it comes to deskwork, especially on the ergonomics aspects of the job. We need adjustable tables, adjustable chairs and adjustable screens. This all to make the job less demanding for the body. However, while working from home, we don’t always have all these tools at our disposal for working ergonomically.

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Correct sitting at desk posture ergonomics: office worker using a computer and improving his posture

The Table

Most of us are working either on the kitchen table or on a non-adjustable desk. We can debate about why we should work on these types of tables, but most people don’t have room to create a proper home office. However, when you work from home, try to find a way to adjust the height of the table. You can put some wood or books underneath the table legs to change the height of the table. Again, it’s not ideal, but we need to work with what we have.

The Chair

This one is much trickier, especially when the chair is non-adjustable. At least find a position, which relaxes the body somehow. Also try to use a pillow to support your back when you sit in the chair. Unlike the table, it is much easier to buy an adjustable chair. They don’t take up lots of space and will help a lot to sit comfortably and prevent back pains.

The Monitor

The height of your screen is important to prevent neck pain. Looking straight at your screen makes sure you have a good position for your neck. You can either buy an adjustable screen or simply use a book to levitate the screen. Try to come as close as possible to the configuration above.

The Accessories

This is probably the most neglected part of working from home. Most people work on a laptop and simply use the trackpad and keyboard that comes with the laptop. A separate mouse and keyboard allows much more degrees of freedom, because you can configure it yourself. The keyboard and trackpad are fine for working an hour or so, but not to work on them hours on end.

Also a lot of people are used to working with a second screen. Just use your old laptop or an old desktop screen to work with a double screen or maybe buy a new one. Because this working from home could take a while and maybe you like it so much, that in the future you work one or two days at home instead of in the office. Some of our employees are more productive back at home, because there are no distractions from colleagues. Just think about it, how is working from home working for you?

In the end it is important to have a proper workplace at home, which gives the least possible physical problems. We need our body for the rest of our lives, so just make sure you treat it accordingly.

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Why Accident Reporting is Important

We had a great interview with Bart Vanraes, a prevention advisor from Belgium. Bart is an expert in “tippex accidents” and did a significant amount of research into this topic.

Tippex Accidents

A “tippex accident” is an accident that actually took place, but for various reasons, was not correctly reported or not reported at all. The name “tippex accidents” comes from the brand Tipp-Ex, the ink removing solution, which makes the wrong answer, or writing error no longer visible. Sometimes it won’t work to cover up or hide the accident, and it still comes to light somehow. Even when it comes to light, it will still be categorized as a “tippex accident.”

An accident is classified as a “tippex accident” as soon as the victims and/or the employers do not report the work accident or report it wrongfully on purpose. Reporting an accident incorrectly is when the victim minimizes the accident or the employer reports the accident but for certain reasons, it seems less serious. This problem is bigger than we think. In Belgium alone, it is estimated that there are 10,000 undeclared industrial accidents. The Dutch inspection suspects that between 30% and 50% of serious industrial accidents in the Netherlands are not reported.

Practical Examples

One of the most striking examples can be found in Qatar. In 2022, the World Cup football will be organized in this country. In order to facilitate such an event, several stadiums, hotels and other facilities needs to be built. Many migrants work on these projects in order to earn a lot of money and to make sure it is all finished before the WC starts. Unfortunately, more than 1400 people have died during these construction projects until now. There are no figures as to whether this is still taking place, the number may therefore be even higher. The distressing work conditions are already worrying, but the fact that fatal accidents are concealed is just as worrying.

“If we have to request a minute’s silence for each estimated dead migrant when building the stadiums, we will play the first 44 games in silence.”

What Does This Mean for Companies?

Tippex accidents not only have serious consequences for the victims, but also for companies. Due to tippex accidents, employees get the feeling that statistics are more important than people. A direct consequence from this is having dissatisfied employees and it will increase tension and stress among the workers. Colleagues will work with fewer employees in a project, which means that the workload can increase.

Another byproduct from this type of behavior is that as honest employers, you are the victim of companies that do not report all accidents. Suppose you have had 8 accidents and reported this honestly, while your competitors have had 10 accidents, but only reported 1. You will then have the inspection bodies all over your facilities even though your competitor has had more accidents.

Also, the company cannot resolve issues, let alone prevent repetitions, if it is not aware of them. Not reporting accidents will prevent similar problems coming to light. This makes it difficult to detect, monitor or adjust problematic situations, therefore avoiding future accidents. The organization will lose a lot of important data for improvement.

Finally, companies that have been “Zero Accidents” for years become ‘lazy’. Proposals and difficult decisions to work on safety-related improvement projects are more difficult to take. After all, there is no sense of necessity or urgency, because it has been going well for years and the company is “industrial accident-free”.

Of course, tippex accidents are not only annoying for companies, but it is also not pleasant for the victim if their accident is scratched from the books!

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Buying an ISO Certificate: Is It Worth It?

After interviewing a couple dozen auditors, we heard the expression “Buying Certificates” quite a lot. It basically comes down to companies only caring about the certificate and not about the management system. In general, it happens more often with smaller companies than bigger ones—but it happens everywhere.

Most of the time, ISO certification is simply forced upon by a new customer that requires an ISO certificate. The real question is, is it worth it? It depends on the industry you are in, of course, because some industries you simply cannot do anything without. In general, it isn’t really worth all the things you are required to do if you really only care about the certificate.

The Situation

A new project or customer requires ISO certification, and the company starts to look into the requirements. A consultant gets contacted and a plan is created. Most companies have some form of Quality and Safety controls, so these are extended and adjusted to fit more into the requirements of the standard. A responsible person is appointed internally and he/she is working together with the consultant to get the management system in place.

The Pain

Because of the lack of support and awareness of the importance of the Quality and Safety management, it will start to feel like a big burden on the company. During the audit there should be some sort of proof that the team follows the procedures and processes described and that they are somehow involved in the stakeholder analysis and risk management. This can be quite challenging and lead to lots of irritation, with the most common phrase:

“We have to do it for ISO”

This of course is nonsense because the standard doesn’t write your procedures.

The Numbers

If you only do it to get a project/customer, which we don’t recommend, then it should at least make economical sense. Getting certified isn’t really hard, the real pain lies in maintaining the management system. Let’s make a small calculation. (These figures highly fluctuate among sectors and countries and therefore you should always make your own.) Just make sure you not only include the certification and the auditor but also the internal resources.

We expect 3 months of consulting by an in-house consultant.

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
Consultant € 10000 ,- € 4000,- € 4000,-
Internal Resources 200 hours 1 year (100 hours year 2 & 3) € 9000,- € 4500,- € 4500,-
External Audits (3 years) € 2000 € 2000 € 2000
Grand Total €42000,- For 3 years  

This is just a simple, relatively small company but it already turns out to be some significant costs.

The Real Implications

Because the management system isn’t really part of the company and not integrated into the operation, the audits will be a real pain every year. Things will be forgotten or aren’t up to date and control measures aren’t checked on effectiveness or simply don’t exist. This will lead to very frustrating situations during the audits.

A Good Thing

To finish with a positive note, we do see lots of companies that start to see and embrace the value of the management system when they have to implement it. They start to use it as a vehicle to improve Quality and Safety and structure their organization. If this is what you plan for, ISO is most definitely a good framework to do this and the ROI on the certificate will be great. So even if a company starts off as a Certification Buyer, it can still become a company that really leverages the standard to improve the business.

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HSE management isn’t a cost center

Last week we touched upon the advantages of Quality management and why this is actually a strong driver for growth. Of course, the same is true for Health and Safety. The people make the organization so their health and safety should be a top priority. Unfortunately for lots of companies, this isn’t the case, and they see the HSE as a cost center and not a driver of growth. When employees feel happy, they are able to excel and bring the company to the next level.

No Cost Center

Yes, HSE costs money and yes this will have an effect on the bottom line of the company, but it isn’t a real cost center. Maybe when you strictly check the definition of a cost center it might be one, but then every department is except for sales. The real HSE costs occur when incidents happen and people aren’t able to work. This is when the company really starts to pay and then it pays for a lack of HSE management. As the HSE department, it is imperative to express this a lot, not only to Top Management but also to all the other employees. You are creating a culture that should guarantee the safety of the employees, so make sure everybody is aware of this. Everybody in the organization needs to feel safe to thrive; without it, people will freeze and won’t add much value.

HSE Management System Implication

The same as with the Quality Management System, the real difficulties start with the HSE Management System. There are all these procedures and policies to make HSE somehow tangible. Top Management cannot relate to it all and don’t really do anything with it. The “required” audits and checks feel like a burden and people don’t see the added value, they simply want to do their job.

On the other hand, they do want to go home in one piece after a day of work so everybody knows that HSE is important for their own wellbeing. It is just that enormous colossal of a Management System that companies have in place that prevents employees from taking it seriously. Safety isn’t really embedded in their job. A good safety culture is important to take care of this. A readable and easy to use management system is crucial for a functioning safety culture. People should be able to report a near miss or accident fairly easy to make sure you as the HSE department get this information. It also should be easy to access the safety instructions on the web without difficulty.

Tools and Equipment

HSE does require a significant investment from the company. Not just in time but also in tools and equipment. People need tested and safe PPEs, there needs to be safety training, documentation needs to be available, adjustable table and chairs for office people, etc. In essence, taking care of people and making sure they can do their job safely costs money but not doing anything could be much more expensive.

Use Data

Data is always a great way to measure activity but also a great approach to involve Top Management. Showing the results of safety awareness training by fewer incidents or fewer injury hours has a significant effect on the mindset of Top Management. Harvesting and collecting data is the number one requirement to even be able to show the data. Make sure there are tools available within the organization to do this properly and fast. Good HSE data management is essential in creating a safe workplace.

Keep in mind you need to do whatever you can to make sure people go home the same way as they arrived in the morning.

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Impact of mental health in Safety Management

Sadly, at any given time, approximately 1 in 5 workers is likely to be experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. This is estimated to cost the global economy $16 trillion by 2030. The enormous economic cost is primarily due to the early onset of mental illness and lost productivity, with an estimated 12 billion working days lost due to mental illness every year. Unfortunately, we see too little emphasis on this from an OHS or HSE point of view.

Business performance can be impacted significantly when business managers or their workers, costing businesses time and money through days off work or not working at full capacity, experience mental health conditions. Relationship with stakeholders, other workers, or family members may also be damaged. Mental health problems have a serious impact on the way someone performs his/her daily activities.

Prevention and effective management of mental health conditions in the workplace can reduce the social and financial impact significantly. As a manager, there should be nothing better than knowing that your staff are healthy and happy. The interaction between work-related and personal related stress makes it pretty hard to find the right way to deal with it. However, the fact that it isn’t easy shouldn’t be the reason why the company doesn’t try. Having a great coach or psychologist ready to help out will be a great way to start.

Safety Solution

Implementing a strong occupational health and safety management system is also another way organizations can reduce accidents and mental health conditions. In order to make mental health an important part of the OHS management system, it should be mentioned in the policies and other key values. We still see that most companies don’t even touch upon this topic from an OHS point of view. Yes, we all have KPI like days without injury but mental health incidents are hardly part of this KPI. Start incorporating mental health issues as well as a KPI. You have to do this carefully, of course, with all the personal information—but it gives a clear message on how serious the company takes this.

Safe Workplace

Start with creating a safe workplace with effective processes—a OHS management platform can help you create. By implementing a safety management system, you can easily put processes in place to ensure your employee’s mental health needs are being addressed as well. It can be a great benefit to train people to realize when they feel stressed and what to do when they are. Give them access to help when needed to make them feel accepted, rather than hiding it away.

Conclusion

Somebody’s mental health is just as important as your physical health and safety in the context of overall health and wellbeing. Make sure the company start to take it as seriously as any other part of the human body and make it part of the OHS Management system.

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How to Successfully Transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001

The ISO 45001 standard has been released for about a year now. Lots of companies haven’t taken the step to this new standard due to the three year transition period. Those that did, noticed that there are quite some differences. The companies that already made the transition to the HLS because of their 14001 or 9001 management system had an advantage, but still noticed the differences.

Focus on Risks

The new ISO 45001 has a big emphasis on risks and how to mitigate them. In particular, the more dangerous industries such as construction, heavy industry, and chemical industry are impacted by this. Most companies are aware of the risks involved in the business but don’t always properly identify and manage them. A good action plan is critical for proper risk management. Make sure these tasks are easy to manage and clearly defined.

Stakeholders

Stakeholder management is a key new aspect in the ISO 45001. Most companies have a good understanding of the stakeholders involved in the business. The OHSAS 18001 did have a communication requirement, which some companies used to manage a part of their stakeholders, but with the stakeholder management coming in this isn’t enough anymore. A proper stakeholder management approach is required and good practice for any company actually. Not every stakeholder needs the same information. Having a rough understanding of who needs to receive what kind of information will help to reduce communication errors and improve productivity.

Identifying Opportunities

Next to risks and stakeholder management, opportunities are a newly introduced topic as well. The organization should identify opportunities to improve the safety of the employees. Some companies try to combine this with risks, but this isn’t always that easy. To be able to properly identify opportunities with respect to OHS, the company should have the tools available for the employees to report shortcomings. A great way to help employees with reporting shortcomings is with an application that lowers the barriers. Employees are the ones that face the risks every day and therefore hold the knowledge when it comes to OHS opportunities. The company can use unsafe situations as a great input for new opportunities. These opportunities are identified by the employees and will have more support than an opportunity identified by some top manager.

Reduce Barriers to Participate

The new ISO 45001 requires companies to lower barriers to participate in the OHS Management system. This isn’t always easy, but can be established with a proper solution. Not only giving the employees access to the right information, but also providing them with the tools to help improve the OHS system. They need to be able to report risks, incidents, and unsafe situations and easily create safety walks. This will lead to a higher involvement in and understanding of why the OHS Management System is essential for their safety. In the end, everybody wants to go home the same way they arrived in the morning.

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How to Implement a QHSE Platform

Buying new a new SaaS solution always requires changes within the way the company works. Sometimes these changes might be minor and sometimes they will be major, but either way they are always for the better. However, not every employee will experience it this way. Some might feel they simply don’t need to change, as most people are resilient to it.

When a new Quality and Safety solution has been purchased, this is no different. Whether you previously worked with Word and Excel files on your server or with an on-premise solution, there will be changes that come along with this new solution.

Key Users

These are mostly the easiest to convince to change. They use the solution quite frequently and have experienced the downfalls of the current way of working. The Key Users are therefore eager to change and might have even been involved or consulted during the selection process. This is relatively easy to do. However, there is another important role for the Key Users and that is a lot harder to convince them of. They should become the internal trainer/consultant. When other people experience problems or difficulties with the solution, they should be able to consult with a Key User. The Key Users are crucial in having a wide adoption on the platform because of this role. Hence, make the Key Users aware of their important role and thank them for this. They are the specialists and they should be made aware of their importance. Everybody wants to feel special in some way, so make sure they feel appreciated.

What Is in It for Me?

The regular users are much more resistant to change. Some might experience the day to day problems but most don’t see many problems with the current way of working. They don’t follow the process completely or somebody else always takes care of this. The introduction of a new solution will force them to do a bit more or simply follow the processes properly. When this is known, make sure you clearly show to the people why it is important that they start to work this way. Explain to them why the solution has been purchased, which problems it solves and how it will help them. For example, now the employees can file issues with their mobile phone thanks to a mobile app. Previously they needed a printed form for this. There is a lot of time saved, not just by the regular user but also by the quality department. Make them not only aware of the time saved for them but also for the entire company. Most people do want what’s best for the company and if they don’t, you have a completely different problem.

Celebrate Success

When the new platform shows good results and gets adopted, celebrate the successes. The success can be big or small, but celebrate them no matter what. When a significant number of hours has been saved or incident costs have been reduced significantly, celebrate this. Order a lunch, get cake or grab a beer with the team. Think of something special and celebrate the success with everybody, not just with the Key Users. Even though you bought a new online solution, in the end you need everybody to make it work.

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The impact of Quality and Safety Management on Project Profitability

Quality and safety are key topics in a number of projects. It already starts during the tender phase. Companies need to prove they have a functional QMS and a proper safety culture. Most companies prove this by showing their portfolio of certificates in combination with their “days without injury” metric. These are all general pieces of information and are used mainly to win the project. However, during the execution of the project, these topics should still get the priority, as they need to check if the company ended up making money at all.

Costs of Quality

Things always go wrong when you try to create something new and that is a good thing. However, it is crucial to register the issues that do occur during the project to be able to have a reality check on the margins. Whenever a supplier arrives late and your team needs to wait or when the wrong materials were delivered, always register the issue. Also, when a part needs to be repaired due to a mistake, register the hours. It is crucial to have this data and take actions to solve them, but never blame the employees because of it. Costs involved in mistakes can be significant and even eat away a lot of the margins. This can be crucial to success, especially in industries with low margins to begin with, like constructions. Hence, register the issues to be able to calculate the margins correctly.

Costs of Safety

Incidents have quite the impact on everybody involved. Even though the injury can be minor, it is always a wake up call of the risks involved in the job. Hence, issues with injuries or even sick days should also be registered. The company should learn from these risky situations and try to avoid them in the future. On the other end, the safety issue can have a big impact on the project. Deadlines might be missed due to the person not being there and morale might be impacted due to the injuries. Putting exact costs on these injuries isn’t easy, but you can always make an estimation.

Project Profitability

As noted above, quality and safety can have a significant impact on the margins of a project. This isn’t an exact science, but adding up all the costs and including some administration costs for handling the issues will give a great idea of the additional costs made to get the project done. These costs were never taken into consideration during the tender phase. Reducing these costs in future projects allows the company to potentially make a healthy profit. These profits can then be used, for example, to reduce the price of the project that gives the company a better position during the tender phase. Looked at it this way, it means that quality and safety becomes an even bigger competitive edge than just having the certificates on the wall.

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Safety Management in a Thriving Economy

The economy is on a rise again and companies are ramping up production. A lot of businesses are running a tight schedule and projects need to be completed as soon as possible. This environment is great for business but not necessarily for the safety perception. During these times it is crucial the safety officers keep safety as top priority at the workplace. To prevent safety becoming the victim of tight schedules, we have pointed out some topics to take into consideration.

Tightly Planned Project

As a safety officer, it is always good to have a close connection and understanding of the ongoing projects and their status. People are inclined to work as hard as possible to finish a project on time, even at the expensive of their own safety. The tight schedule can put so much pressure on people that they start to make a consensus on safety. Being present at the worksite helps to remind the employees of the importance of safety. You will personally be the trigger for them. Furthermore, it allows you to keep track of the safety culture and correct workers when they take irresponsible risks. Of course you cannot do this on your own, so make sure project managers and site managers are properly trained.

Continue Training

The tight planning reduces time for things like safety training and awareness programs. These techniques are crucial to maintaining a healthy safety culture. Make sure the training time isn’t reduced due to time constraints. Yes, top management will put the customer first, but ensure that it doesn’t happen at the expense of safety. It is crucial for the health of the workers but also the organization that people feel safe and secure while they do their job. Come up with measuring tools that show how important the training is. These can be safety culture perception or more hard figures like number incidents and their costs to handle them.

Reduce Barriers

Enable employees to easily file incidents and unsafe situations. It is crucial employees have the right tools to provide you with the necessary information to plan your actions. This information is a great input for things like:
  • Creating training plans.
  • Improving certain work instructions.
  • Planning specific toolbox meetings.

Positive Note

Due to the strong economic times a lot of companies have budgets available for topics like safety. Safety officers will notice it gets easier to get budget approvals. Make sure you leverage these great times wisely. In order to prove to top management that money was well spent, make sure you have proof. Show that the safety awareness went up, or that major incidents went down, or whatever metric you use. Just make sure you have data to back up the expenses. This will make approvals in the future a lot easier. Published by:

CAPA Management and how to structure this

Corrective and preventive actions (CAPA) have been subject to changes the last years due to some modifications to several standards. These recent changes made a lot of companies choose to get rid of the preventive actions. Regardless of the changes, the struggles of managing these tasks is still present. There are still multiple actions pending per employee, regardless of the wording.

Origin of the Task

The different tasks can originate from a number of different sources. Activities like a management walk, incident, customer complaint or an audit. These tasks are then stored in Excel documents or similar, which leads to long lists of actions with different due dates and statuses. Tracking the origin of the task is not only crucial for analyzing the data, but also to track the progress. One incident can hold multiple tasks, these origins show exactly which tasks need to be done to finish the incident report.

Manage the Sheet

The Excel doc that holds all the tasks (CAPA) quickly holds hundreds of records. To organize the data, multiple tabs get introduced and more columns are added to allow better shifting of data. The concept behind this Excel document is that every employee checks his/her tasks in the document and changes the data when something has been done. This sounds great in theory, but it is not so good in practice.

Some things that happen to the file are:
● Employees don’t close the file and therefore “keep it occupied”.
● People start to add a bunch of fields to keep in the data or don’t know where to store it.
● Employees cannot find the document.

The list is pretty long, which is why this method breaks pretty quickly when you some employees. In order to solve this, companies make the Quality Manager responsible for managing the list. This method is undoable and requires a lot of time and effort.

Automate CAPA

Picking a proper solution for managing the tasks will give instant structure. The employees will not be able to change the sheet whenever they see fit. Everyone will get notified when tasks are due and they can access it from anywhere in the world. The integration with other parts of the management system makes it very easy to track why a certain task was started. This makes task management on certain incidents fairly easy because it is simple to filter which tasks are pending on the incident.

Tasks management is a crucial part of the improvement plan. Make sure you structure this properly in order to keep track of the improvement plan in the best way possible.

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