In order to utilize quality to bring about an effective HSE system, first it must be defined. This in itself is a challenge as quality is often about the perception of the individual. Joseph Juran, principally remembered as an evangelist for quality, gave the definition as “fitness for use” whereas Philip Crosby, author of “The Fourteen Steps to Quality Improvement,” thought it was more a case of “right first time.” Perhaps the simplest definition is that of the Oxford English Dictionary which says “the degree of excellence of something.” Whichever definition is used, a quality approach to achieving effective health, safety and environmental responsibilities is one that can bring immediate benefits to the organization.
Quality is easy to say, but is it a word that is overused as well as ill-defined? After all, what company believes it is not applying quality to everything it does?
The subject of quality has long been recognized, with quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement being the three main approaches to quality management. There are, however, well documented flaws and differing opinions on the effectiveness of these approaches when individually applied. Rather than focus on any one of the above, it is a holistic approach that will deliver quality in the successful management of HSE, from processes, procedures and people, through to suppliers of products and services, and the assurance and improvement in these elements.
There are five steps to successful health and safety management, all of which share similarities to a quality management system; policy, organizing, planning/implementing, measuring and improving.
Following these steps with a quality approach will help keep staff safe and injury free at work, while reducing the cost of injuries, illness, and damage. Not to mention, avoiding extremely damaging and costly legal actions that can sometimes follow as well as the incalculable human cost and suffering to those injured.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, you cannot be a “quality” organization unless these sound principles are applied to the management of health and safety. defined at the beginning of any process, quality in behavior should begin at board level, influencing the HSE culture within an organization to send a positive message to all stakeholders, importantly including the supply chain.
Although there are many companies that believe quality is a key factor in ensuring success - especially in an environment that is high risk, competitive and selective - there are equally many companies that are not committed to a quality approach. This is often due to a lack of understanding of the link between HSE and quality, which in this case is very much about providing consistency and assurance.
There has never been a better time to adopt a quality approach in the way you operate your business, especially when it comes to health, safety and environment. It is an exciting, and vibrant time for our industry as we look ahead to the next 50 years; so please consider putting “Q” into HSE and do not let your company make headline news for the wrong reasons.
Chris Docherty is a director of Aberdeenbased consultancy FQM Ltd, previously known as Facilitators Quality Management, with responsibility for FQM Training and sales and marketing. He has over 20 years experience in contracts, quality management and project management at a senior Level.