Oct 08, 2017

How to use the PDCA cycle with OHSAS 18001

The PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) is widely seen as a cornerstone in the ISO family of standards and is likewise a critical element in OHSAS 18001. It should therefore be an integral part of any Operational Health & Safety (OH&S) System. The PCDA cycle is critically important within the standard and can be described simply as:

  • Plan. Define the processes and objectives required to achieve the results defined in the OH&S Policy of the organization.
  • Do. This step implements the objectives and processes.
  • Check. When checking, we measure and monitor all processes against OH&S policies and objectives, as well as legal requirements. We also report the results within this step.
  • Act. Taking the required action to ensure that performance is continually improved.

In the ISO 9001 standard, using a process approach is promoted and as the PDCA cycle is totally compatible with the concept, it makes sense to use the 2 methods together to achieve the outcome and improvement you want from the OH&S System. As this methodology is widely accepted, let’s have a look at how it fits in and how we can utilize it within our OHSAS 18001 system.

Where does the Plan Do Check Act cycle apply?

Whether you knew it or not, you used the PDCA cycle the minute you started writing the OH&S Policy itself. If you however use the cycle constructively and consciously, it can be hugely beneficial. Let’s look at where and how this can specifically be done.

The various elements of the PDCA cycle weave through OHSAS 18001 all the time. The “Plan” element comes into play when you start writing the OH&S Policy and includes the setting of objectives and targets. The minute you consider and construct a process to meet the objectives you are executing the “Do” element, while “Check” and “Act” are covered by reviews and adjustments respectively.

How can PDCA be used to give the most benefit

Looking at the PDCA cycle from a different perspective will help you view OHSAS 18001 in a new light. If this is the case, you’ll literally see how the PDCA cycle is used in almost every clause of the standard. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Implementation and operation: We can easily see that this forms part of the “Do” phase of the cycle. If you look at aspects such as construction of processes and resources carefully, it is once again obvious that the performance of an OH&S System will likely be compromised by deficiencies in this phase of the cycle.
  • Planning: The planning clause specifically addresses hazards identification, risk assessment, and also the controls that need to be implemented. It is easy to see that this element is critical to the performance of your OH&S System. This is obviously a part of the “Plan” phase of the PDCA cycle, and if the planning and identification is not done properly, your OH&S System will most likely not meet its objectives. There is also a high probability that incidents will occur as a result of poor planning.
  • Continual improvement: This requirement ultimately forms the basis of not only the OHSAS 18001 standard, but of all the standards in the ISO family. By its very nature, it determines the need for the “Act” phase of the cycle. The whole PDCA cycle is tied together effectively by prescribed clauses such as internal audits, incident investigations and corrective actions. The “Act” phase of the cycle can be strengthened further by using things like internal improvement initiatives or employee suggestions, and this will ultimately lead to improved results.
  • Checking: Performance measuring and monitoring clearly form part of the “Check” phase of the cycle. Recording data accurately so that it can be analyzed properly is crucial for laying a strong foundation for action, thus enabling continual improvement to take place systemically.

In this way, all the clauses of the 18001 standard can be seen as part of the PDCA cycle in one way or another. Let’s finally look at what advantage this approved methodology gives us by using it.

The benefits of PDCA

The importance of proper understanding and execution of the PDCA cycle should never be underestimated. By the same token, the benefits of focusing properly on all parts of the cycle are massive, and will lead to an increased probability of meeting your objectives. Making the PDCA cycle the pivot of your OH&S System will enhance your business reputation, protect both employees and stakeholders, and maximize your chances of achieving OHSAS 18001 accreditation.

From the points discussed in the previous section, it should now be easy to see how the PDCA cycle operates in practice, and also how the four parts are interdependent on each other. If you underperform in any single section of the cycle, whether it is through inadequate planning, poor execution, data gathering that is not accurate, or processes that are ineffective, it will ultimately lead to the OH&S System underperforming and failing to meet objectives.

ISO 9001 quality management systems (QMS) are implemented using MyEasyISO software in Kolkata (West Bengal, India), while ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001 Health Safety Management Systems (HSE) are implemented with MyEasyISO in Santiago (Chile).


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