Saturday 13 July 2013

5 indicators that your quality or safety management system is a dog's breakfast

Many people are resigned to living with systems which don't add value to the company's operations.  This is pointless. Here are 5 indicators of scope for improvement and how it could be improved.

Indicator 1 It's a big, thick wordy manual, or even worse, a collection of them
Instead of being structured sensibly, the system is written around what is perceived as being required at the time. Typically, quality management systems are structured clause-by-clause of ISO 9001, but this isn't how you operate. Also, you tend to get phrases like, "On receipt of the production order, the Operations Manager is accountable for..."

Also, instead of having a sensible record system, everything gets stuffed into the folders. So, the core of the system gets obscured by forms and copies of published information. 

Indicator 2 Nobody ever looks at it
Because it is so unworkable, it tends to sit on a shelf somewhere. Typically, one person looks after it and it's a nightmare if that person leaves. Because nobody looks at it, it drifts towards indicator 3.

Indicator 3 It doesn't reflect what actually happens
This is what we call the "Parallel Universe Syndrome". A quality management system gets written in semi-legal language in order to gain ISO 9001 certification, but this isn't how you actually operate. The documented and actual practices diverge.

Indicator 4 There's panic whenever an external body asks for information
So, when it's time for an external audit, there's a mad panic to "get everything up to date for the auditor". Because actual and documented practices are different, this entails considerable work.

When people, like insurance companies, the HSE or solicitors, ask for information, it's a nightmare to find it.

Indicator 5 It's an absolute pig to use

Because of all of the above, nobody wants to refer to the system and everybody regards it as an irrelevance to normal work.

So, what do you do about it?

Step 1 Restructure manuals
  • Instead of having procedures written in semi-legal language, have simple flowcharts. These still meet ISO standards, but are far more usable.
    Refer to ISO Without the Agony to see examples.
  • Structure the procedures so that they reflect the flow of work. So, you'd have estimation and order receipt followed by materials control and so on.
  • Write them from the perspective of the user.
  • Make sure that the procedures follow what you do, or what you want to do.
  • And if you have certification to more than one standard, have a single, integrated manual, rather than separate ones. 
  • Now that you've got a simple manual, install copies at relevant positions, so that everyone can see them. Don't go crazy; dependant on the size of the company, you may have one on the shop floor and one in the offices. Then make sure that people know about them.
Step 2 Have useful health and safety documentation
It's pointless having wonderful risk and other assessments if they are not translated into working practices.
  • Where the control for a risk is a system of work, safe working practices or whatever name you give it, have simple versions (I like to use pictures) at the point of use.
  • With CoSHH assessments, have summaries of the controls and any emergency measures at the point of use.
Step 3 Use paperless systems as much as is practicable
Get rid of paper forms and make use of electronic systems to do all the work for you. The SSS INTACT system does this for most of the paperwork. The full benefits of INTACT are beyond the scope of this e-mail, but click on the link below to see more. 

What support can Strategic Safety Systems provide?

You can do all of the above yourself and reap the benefits. However, we provide a cost-effective alternative and if you want help, we have 17 years of experience in providing such systems and services for many companies.  For example, we have 180 certifications for 75 companies under our belt and we have provided safety support for several hundred companies. Just click on the Contact Us button at the bottom.

We pride ourselves in providing workable solutions and here is just a sample of what we can do:
  • Provision of systems (or repair of existing systems) for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001, ISO 27001, FSC, PEFC and other standards.
  • Provision of health, safety and environmental services including risk, CoSHH and other assessments, substance and noise measurement.
  • Provision of computerised systems for action management (INTACT), risk and other assessments, and as a spin-off, other computerised business management systems.
Sources of information
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 Phil Chambers

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