Does a Safety Standard Guarantee a Safe Environment?

It has long been the case that companies of all sizes see attaining a safety and quality standard of some description as being essential to satisfy themselves and their customers that their product is good and their workplace is safe.

Does attaining such a standard actually guarantee this?

My past experiences as an HSE Inspector have led me to form a view that whilst there are many advantages to having the badge of approval it can lead to an air of complacency. Volumes of manuals and assessments are compiled for inspection and audit and provide the audit trail required by other customers who themselves are similarly accredited. There is a danger that the focus on the system is confined to the run up to an inspection and once complete it is put back on the shelf until the next time.

To achieve the standard every box has to be ticked, every form completed. The danger in this approach is that the standard becomes the goal, not the quality of the operation and systems of work. It creates an artificial separation between the operations and the paperwork. Anyone who has performed a health and safety audit and found the paperwork is perfect and the conditions on the ground are a shambles will know that the component parts of the management system can’t be separated and when they are then chaos can ensue.

If operations and safety are managed properly then the standard should be achieved by default. Yes, I admit that presenting the evidence is something that cannot be avoided and can take time, but it should be reporting what exists rather than producing evidence to satisfy the requirements of the standard.

Volumes and volumes of assessments and systems may be necessary to achieve an accreditation but can shift the focus away from the operations and can lead to the tail wagging the dog. When this occurs health and safety standards slip and employees and others are put at increased risk.

Distilling the relevant information in a usable form to support your operations is vital. If you need advice or a review of your health and safety management system please get in touch via email, the contact page or call me.



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