What’s Green about Safety?

Safety and Sustainability

Of the seven billion people alive today, your firm probably affects the lives of your employees most. Demonstrating concern for the well being of your employees is a logical place to emphasize in working on the concern for humanity aspect of Sustainability. A truly excellent Safety program does that. And it does a good deal more:

Simpson Safety PosterA real Safety program is built on employee engagement. It goes far beyond regulatory compliance. The advantages to the employee (relief from painful accidents, possible disabilities and other work-related heath issues) and to the manufacturing firm (relief from medical costs, lost time, workflow interruption, workforce morale issues, regulatory intervention and more) are clear to everybody, so the mutual motivation exists to support a high level of cooperation. Credibility gained from a good Safety program makes it easier to attain high levels of employee engagement in other initiatives, where the advantages to the employee (the advantages of working for a competitive, hence thriving company) may be less obvious.

With today’s high unemployment numbers, it is easy to forget that finding and retaining talent will be a defining issue — if not the defining issue — for prospering in the coming decades. Labor can be automated. Talent can’t. This means many sorts of talents and skills, manual as well as cerebral. Talented people are already in short supply, and that will get worse. The demographic trends are quite clear. Talented people have options: They need not and will not work in unsafe or unhealthy environments.

About Safety Programs

Safety needs to become a key component of an organization’s culture. If you are moving from a culture defined by compliance, Safety is a great place to start. Developing and implementing a meaningful Safety program is the logical way to proceed. Believe it or not, your friends at OSHA offer lots of useful resource information tailored for smaller firms. The OSHA small business web pages are worth becoming familiar with [1]. The OSHA Small Business Handbook  [2] is a “must have” free download. There are safety consultants available almost everywhere. Contact the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) office in your State [3] — the MEP folks will either assist directly you or refer you to somebody local who can help.

My concern about Safety programs, like Quality programs or Maintenance programs, is that an organization is an integral system. When aspects of a system are treated as independent entities, the system (that is, the organization) is not optimized. “Zoomed in” [4] views, as Safety programs are, need be balanced by integration into a “zoomed out” comprehensive management system.

One way to do this is to structure your Safety program such that aligns with the structure of an ISO 9001 Quality program, especially if you already have an ISO 9001 program. Globally, over a million facilities have ISO 9001 Quality programs. So, the ISO 9001 structure is rapidly becoming a de facto global standard. ISO 9004 provides guidance on how to extend ISO 9001 beyond its explicit requirements. Since the ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard already aligns closely with the ISO 9001 structure, the ISO 9001 structure offers a convenient platform for a comprehensive, integrated, “zoomed out” management system [5].

The OSHAS 18001 Occupational Safety and Health Standard intentionally aligns with the structure of ISO 9001. OSHAS 18001 is formally a British standard. However, at least 50,000 facilities around the world use it. While it is possible to be certified to the OSHAS 18001 Standard, smaller manufacturers may find it more useful as a reference model for the content of Safety program. A detailed summary of OSHAS 18001 requirements (hence the contents of a sophisticated Safety program) is available on-line, for free [6].

In summary, a safe and healthful workplace is an essential aspect of pursuing Sustainability — that is, of seriously striving to thrive in perpetuity [7].

Chuck - Blue SweaterThoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated. Click on the title of this post to open the comments section.

…  Chuck Harrington

— When it is time for your firm to seriously pursue Sustainability, contact me — C.H.


Note: This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

Image: Safety poster courtesy of Work Place Planning Centre (U.K.), via Google Images.  

[3] Locate the MEP office nearest you at: http://www.nist.gov/mep/index.cfm


[4] “Zooming in” and “zooming out” is explained in Green and the Zoom Lens Mind, this blog: http://blog.jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/02/22/green-and-the-zoom-lens-mind.aspx

[5] For more on using ISO Standards as a basis for a comprehensive management system, see What’s Wrong with ISO?, this blog, http://blog.jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/07/03/whats-wrong-with-iso.aspx


[6] Download the OSHAS 18001 requirements at: http://www.18000store.com/ohsas-18000-requirements.aspx


[7] For more on thriving in perpetuity, see Thriving in Perpetuity, this blog: http://blog.jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/08/22/thriving-in-perpetuity.aspx