What do you get when you put more than 1,000 safety professionals in a casino in Las Vegas for a week? With such a risk-adverse group, not as much gambling as you might think.
Each year, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) sponsors SeminarFest, a weeklong conference for safety professionals from all over the world to network and learn from each other and top-notch instructors. Although I’ve been a safety professional for more than 20 years, it’s still exciting to see so many colleagues pursuing a unified goal of continually improving the safety of their workplaces. Seeing “CSP” (Certified Safety Professional) on so many name badges also makes me anxious to finally sit for my CSP exam later this year.
I walk away with valuable insight and helpful advice on a variety of safety-related issues after each SeminarFest. One interactive class I took this year focused on risk assessments. The instructor pointed out that in the U.S., when an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector visits, they ask to see your records: training registers, injury logs and written procedures. In the U.K., inspectors want to see your risk assessments.
I hadn’t considered that difference before, and this fact gave me a paradigm shift. It’s not that we don’t do risk assessments in the U.S. In fact, they’re a cornerstone of world-class safety programs.
So why the difference in focus during inspections and audits?
Jump to the following day’s class on strategic thinking. We crave measurements. We like to take data and point to a chart or graph and show evolution. But are we measuring the right information? Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should. For example, does it really matter which department spent the most money on personal protective equipment last quarter? Although the accounting department would probably say “yes,” putting this in a pie chart doesn’t tell us much. From a risk assessment standpoint, for this data point to be meaningful and help improve safety, we need to dig a little bit deeper.
It’s easy for an inspector to request your training records and injury logs: either you have them, or you don’t. It takes much longer to analyze a stack of risk assessments and determine if they’re accurate and comprehensive enough to address risks. You cannot easily measure risk assessments, and they’re often subjective. There are a ton of matrices that can be used to quantify risk based on frequency, severity and other factors, but 10 people could view the same risk using the same matrix and come up with 10 different risk values – and they all could provide valid reasons for their rationales. Inspecting or auditing risk assessments is more of a gray area than training records and injury logs.
Another hot topic that plays into both of these insights is the availability of the first draft of the ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard. Whether your facility operates out of one location or is part of a multi-national conglomerate, risk assessments could become a larger slice of the pie for anyone developing or modifying their facility’s safety management system. Risk assessments will be critical for companies seeking the internationally recognized certification.
It will be interesting to see how OSHA embraces ISO 45001, which will be a voluntary consensus standard in the U.S. It will also be interesting to see if and how facilities in the U.S. move from similar American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) and other safety management consensus standards to ISO 45001.
As I reflect on this year’s SeminarFest, I’m sure of one thing: Even when their companies have an excellent safety management system, real safety professionals will always be looking for ways to improve.
You tell us: Did you attend this year’s SeminarFest? What class had the biggest impact on you. Let us know in the comments section below!