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How to Integrate a Safety Management System into Operations

Dec. 17, 2019
To change the organization, you need to influence leadership.

Many organizations on a global scale embark on a journey to implement structure into their operations at a systematic level. A management system has a place within how we can operate to eliminate variation from the processes that impact the operations of a business.

Management systems such as ISO 45001, ISO 14001 or ISO 50001 largely are implemented within the environmental, health, safety and risk management profession. Just like business, it is critical to implement elements of continuous improvement within these management systems to enable long-term sustained success for years to come.

There are differences between the strategic enablers of continuous improvement within a management system as well as operational excellence initiatives and how to achieve the WHY factor of this approach. They all serve a defined place holder within the management of the system and without question give a foundation for improvement year after year.

An aspect that I’ve learned through the implementation of these management systems is how to not allow complacency to show through for the organization. This balance of moving forward at a consistent pace is challenging because the appetite for change is not always embraced through all aspects of the organization. This embrace is not the same as a commitment to culture. Foundationally a culture change can not occur without a committed understanding of the WHY factor. This WHY is the True North of taking a management system to an operating system and understanding the value of the impact this can do for an organization.

Organizations that have a management system focus do have the opportunity to turn this into an organizational operating system, but only a few are able to truly integrate to this level. This change is about being able to influence leadership at all levels. At the surface, some may argue there is no difference between a management system and operating system, but there are stark differences. These differences become more apparent at the core of the systems and how they are developed throughout cross-functional departments.

When an operating system is implemented to improve the organization and eliminate variation from the processes with a continuous improvement aspect, it will enable core efficiencies within the business. This committed approach will foster cross-functional support. You can drive short term climate change with a management system and over time it will become complacent. An operating system with the same 12 pillars will foster culture change and enable a sustainable approach beyond any one leader.  

The true success in making the shift from a management system approach to an operating system is making it foundationally built for the people. In EHS, this is critical to driving further success as you shift from a Numbers to Names approach. This view gives a strategic vision to help foster broader thinking for EHS Professionals. This vantage point looks at how to manage risk(s) as a whole system approach like an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). Look at the risk, understand the risk and drive improvement for all avenues of the business.

Making EHS an integral part of the business solution and not a reason why we can’t. This is my chess to checkers comparison. If the intent is to drive short term quick improvements, a management system approach can be a solution. If the organization is truly set on delivering long term sustained successes across business lines within the organization, the operating system will culturally and strategically shift the organization in that direction.

Professionals that work in the industry have an understanding of what it takes to drive sustained success. A journey to zero truly means that no one gets hurt and is able to go home to their families. The operating system approach is an enabler to shift the WHY message to names and not numbers. 

About the Author

Adam Bates | Managing Director, A&C Enterprise Solutions LLC

Adam L. Bates is an innovative, results-oriented environmental, health, safety and security leader with more than 15 years experience with a successful record of developing and executing robust global business strategies at leading companies including Honeywell, Owens Corning, Daido Metal, Inteva Products, and Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. 

Adam also has significant experience leading change and implementing new processes globally. Broadly focused on continuous improvement to drive dramatic reductions in key environmental, health and safety metrics. A data-driven hands-on business leader with deep expertise in global compliance/conformance issues and operations who applies a 'big picture' outlook. 

Recognized as a global leader in Environmental, Health and Safety: Recognized as a Top 40 under 40 Rising Star by The National Safety Council; Listed in “The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2014-2015” (EHS Today); Listed as “Superheroes of Safety Who Inspire Us” (June 2017 EHS Today); Appointed 2017 Board of Directors Delegate (National Safety Council).

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