Who is responsible for work safety?
Most enterprise asset management (EAM) systems just touch upon the safety aspect by registering hazards involved or precautions to be taken while working in a risky environment. But, how do they enforce work safety? There are still so many accidents and incidents in the industry and all investigation findings point to missing safety measures, ignorance, or bypassing safety rules or procedures. What can be done to ensure a safe work environment for everyone? How can a company enforce control of work? One single accident is enough to do away with all financial benefits received through optimized asset management or predictive maintenance to increase asset availability. Asset availability is important, but not at the cost of safety!
Most EAM systems are implemented more as a transactional system, focusing on asset registry and work management to schedule and execute work, including preventive maintenance, reactive maintenance and emergency or breakdown maintenance. Though computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and EAM systems have been in existence for quite some time now, health, safety and environment (HSE) are still seen in isolation and managed manually or in disparate systems. CMMS/EAM integrate with external systems, like financial, supply chain, geographic information systems (GIS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), etc., but should HSE be an integral part of an EAM system?
Let’s take a look at some of the International Labour Organization’s facts and figures concerning health and safety at work:
- - 321,000 people die from occupational accidents
- - 317 million nonfatal occupational accidents occur
This means that:
Every 15 seconds
- - 1 worker dies from a work-related accident or disease
- - 151 workers have a work-related accident
The obvious question arises: Who is responsible for work safety? The answer depends on to whom this question is being asked. Employers say each employee is responsible for his or her own safety, while they enable them by providing training, etc. Employees say their employer should make all necessary safety arrangements as they should know the risk involved. They are just workers following instructions.
The reality is that everyone involved in work execution is responsible for overall safety in the workplace, regardless of their role, direct or indirect.
People also relate work safety to specific industries. Is work safety required in all industries or is it applicable only to oil and gas, transportation, construction and electric utility? It must be understood that work safety is required in all industries, although the degree of risk and its consequences might vary.
More than likely, you have heard about multiple incidents in different industries. One example that comes to mind is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010, this explosion killed 11 people and resulted in the owner paying approximately $20 billion in fines.
Another example is the Piper Alpha disaster. The July 6, 1988, explosion on the North Sea oil-producing platform killed 167 people. Findings indicated inadequate maintenance and safety procedures.
There are numerous other examples throughout various industries, with all of them having one thing in common: some work safety aspect was ignored. Most of the disasters could have been averted with proper work safety management in place.
So, the next question that comes to mind is: Why don’t people use a work safety management system? Actually, many have so-called safety management systems in place, but they are lacking in their effectiveness due to poor process integration with asset and work management systems.
The ISO55000 series puts a lot of emphasis on work safety as an integral part of an asset management system. Several factors can be taken care of by an asset management systems. According to the standard:
“A factor of successful asset management is the ability to integrate asset management processes, activities and data with those of other organizational functions, e.g., quality, accounting, safety, risk and human resources. Where possible, existing business processes should be leveraged to avoid unnecessary new work and duplication of existing work and data.”
Risk management is another factor that must be considered for individual asset or activity and it has to be tied back to the work order management system to ensure adherence to compliance. This is mentioned in ISO55000 as:
“When addressing risks in the asset management system, the organization should determine the risk assessment criteria (e.g., likelihood and consequence, and risk attitude) within asset management decision-making for its asset management system. A risk matrix may be used as part of this process.”
Competence management is another important factor to be considered as part of an asset management system, as it is paramount for ensuring the right skilled person is doing the job in addition to following all other safety procedures. ISO55000 provides clear guidelines to follow. The organization shall:
“Determine the necessary competence of person(s) doing work. Ensure that these persons are competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, or experience. Retain appropriate documented information as evidence of competence.”
Among other important factors stated in ISO5500 are management of change, an internal audit and processes for the investigation of asset-related incidents.
Putting together a comprehensive list or a kind of process tool kit can help ensure work safety and regulatory compliance. This list of elements might be very useful:
- Identify hazards;
- Prepare risk matrix;
- Perform risk assessment;
- Use permit to work;
- Report incidents, including near misses;
- Investigate incidents;
- Manage improvements;
- Manage competency;
- Conduct audits;
- Management of change (MoC);
- Develop a safety culture.
The most important of all is developing a safety culture, as the complexity of different integrated processes/systems poses a threat of an incident taking place at any time. Hence, it is important to have seamless integration with no possibility of even a near miss going unnoticed and not acted upon. Knowing the root cause is very important, followed by an action plan to ensure nonrecurrence of safety issues.
Organizations always need to strike a balance between safety, compliance and quality while executing work in any industrial situation.
With advancement in technology, it has become simpler to monitor and manage safety issues. Many industries are experimenting with the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve safety through the use of wearable smart sensors to monitor the condition of both the asset’s and worker’s health to avoid or reduce safety incidents. Hopefully, new technology can bring down the rate of accidents and make industries a safer workplace.
The risks of not solving this problem are having an inefficient and unsafe EAM system, looking at other non-cohesive systems to fill this gap, an increased risk of work incidents and the inability to make right decisions, analysis and risk assessment on time.
It is recommended to evaluate leading EAM systems in the market with an eye on integrated safety management that complies with ISO55000 and other regulatory requirements in your industry.
It is also important to have your HSE domain expert on the team to help design the right system to achieve the objective.
After all, safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Disclaimer: The views and statements made in this document are based on the experience and opinions of the author and do not represent IBM’s views.
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