And I'll Visit Dracula's Castle: In the Land of This Transylvanian Myth, as in Much of the Rest of the World, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Are Very Much Alive. (Management)

Article excerpt

I'm teaching a course, "Environmental/Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standards" (E&OHS MS) in Romania. I'll be there for two weeks and will have time during one weekend to visit the Transylvanian home of Dracula's Castle. I understand that they are in the process of building "Draculand." (I am not sure what to think about such a project.)

My course curriculum includes the ISO 9000 manufacturing quality management systems standard, manufacturing sector-specific management system standards (such as QS 9000 for the auto industry and HACCP 9000 for the food industry), the ISO 14000 environmental management systems standard and the many occupational health and safety (OHS) management systems (MS) standards. OHS management systems covered include the British Standards 8800 and the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Specification (OHSAS) 18001, the American Industrial Hygiene Association's (AIHA) and American Chemistry Council's management systems and, most importantly, the new International Labor Organization (ILO) Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems.

The course also includes a lot of material about traditional auditing systems and the "management system" type of audit, which focuses on root-cause analysis and the specification of corrective and preventive action plans. This is the section of the course of greatest interest to the students, because the auditor has a central role in these systems. No longer are we simply asked to wait until the government inspector shows up. Now we, in our role as MS auditors, have a central role in the design and business planning process of our companies.

Global Effort

There was a time when representatives of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for TC-207 (ISO 14000) said to those who were working on an OHSMS: "Stop pushing this idea -- no one wants it, and it is a burden on industry." Almost simultaneously, a very high-level delegation that purported to represent industry's interests visited an AIHA board meeting and demanded that AIHA stop working on this useless, intrusive idea. At the same time, organized labor was also decidedly cool about the idea of a management system standard rather than the traditional approach embodied by specification standards and technically based regulations.

Fortunately, none of the many groups around the world stopped working on OHSMS. All felt that this was so important a strategy, and so congruent with the strategic needs of industry, that it was worth working on despite the arguments of those opposing voices (see "Will There be an OHSMS?" OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS, October 2000). Now, the British OHSMS standard is being adopted by companies the world over in the form of OHSAS 18001, which requires organizations to conduct an annual risk assessment, use it as the basis to set goals, and put policies and procedures in place to address those goals [see "Management's Big Payoff," OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS, March 2002). Moreover, the U.S. ANSI Z-10 secretariat is working with AIHA on a U.S. national OHSMS, and the ILO OHSMS is being translated into all the world's languages and being enthusiastically embraced by many national bodies. This has not in any way been an individual or national effort. It is a global effort that has been initiated and sustained by members of all s take-holder groups over the past decade.

These globe-spanning initiatives are very important because they represent the fruit of the work of industry, labor and government stakeholders to better protect workers while using a strategy that is congruent with and central to good business practice. The ILO standard, or "guidance document," is perhaps the most important of all of these. As a global standard, it is defacto World Trade Organization (WTO)-legal. What does that mean? It means that it is legal for use as a contract specification for bidders of private-and public-sector contracts anywhere in the world [see "Conformance of ISO OHSMS Standards in Public-Sector Procurement Specifications to the GATT/WTO Requirements," AIHA J. …