Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Safety Management: 'Wonderland' Management?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Safety Management: 'Wonderland' Management?

Article excerpt


In one of his recent books, Safety Management, noted consultant and safety management professional Dan Petersen provides a short commentary on how management gets things done. Briefly, management tells someone what is wanted, sets goals, assigns responsibility and authority, and then fixes accountability for ensuring the goals are met. His caveat, however, is that this set of management tools is generally not applied to the safety function.

The Regulatory Update, a summary of the OSHA standards most frequently cited during Fiscal Year 1989, substantiates Petersen's contention of mismanagement of the safety function. Of the 10 specific category citations from 29 CFR 1910 and 1926,6 can be directly attributed to management error because they involve safety program elements which are part of the organizational management scheme. The 6 management-oriented categories account for 74 percent of the total alleged citations (25,626 of 34,640) in 10 categories. The management-oriented categories cited by OSHA covered the following general topics: failure to have a written hazard communication program, failure to obtain and maintain material safety data sheets (MSDSs), failure to provide required employee information and training under the hazard communication standard, failure to provide safety training and education for construction workers, failure to keep required records of accidents/injuries/illnesses, and failure to place an OSHA information notice in the workplace where employee notices are posted. Little imagination is required to determine that failure to comply with these management "standards" constitutes management running amok. Definitely not "error-free performance," as defined by NSMS cofounder William C. Pope in numerous publications and lectures.

OSHA Standards

Historically, OSHA has directed its standards toward "things", i.e. equipment and facilities, rather than people. Approximately 90 percent are specification standards dealing with the work environment, although the bulk of workplace accidents devolve from people through unsafe acts and abysmal management practices. In reviewing historical accident/injury/illness data, particularly through comparison of Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) participants with industry in general, OSHA has discovered a direct correlation between exemplary management practices and exceptionally low injury rates. Based on the VPP revelation, OSHA has begun to take a more serious look at promulgating a guidelines standard for management practices, with the hope of improving safety and health management at worksites nationwide.

Most of us are familiar with the management acronym "POSDC": planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. If you are not aware of these management elements, and if you hold a management level position (or aspire to one), then perhaps you were a facilitator in establishing the OSHA citation records mentioned previously. POSDC applies to any and all organizational elements, no matter what the function. Each acronym element is as important as the next, for all must be equally addressed and integrated into the whole to achieve management success. The following equation, which I attribute to Stuart Pouliot of Phillip Morris Co. and of NSMS's Capital Chapter, provides excellent guidance for attaining your goals and objectives: SUCCESS = DEVELOP + ORGANIZE + STANDARDIZE + INTEGRATE + MANAGE.

It is fairly obvious that the approaches touched on above connote the use of a "system" to gain an end. In "Safety: A Management System," which appeared in NSMS's June 1986 Issues in Perspective, Professional Safety Consultants Inc. president Ernest B. Jorgensen addressed the systems approach when writing about safety as a management system, as have other authors, such as Petersen in Safety Management. One advantage to the systems approach is that when failure occurs, the system elements may be analyzed in detail to determine the cause of system failure. …

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