Nov 01, 2017

Why is training and awareness important in terms of OHSAS 18001?

When you need to ensure the health & safety of employees in the workplace, the OHSAS 18001 standard will guide you on this important matter. Irrespective of where you work – in a nuclear power plant, or in a small office, there are always health & safety considerations in your environment, and also legislation that changes constantly. You need to assess and implement both these factors. Although clause 4.4.2 of OHSAS 18001 deals with how you should implement “Competence, Training and Awareness”, dealing with the safety of employees at work is an issue that should carry more weight than simply implementing something to satisfy the clause of a standard. When dealing health & safety, insufficient awareness could easily cause incidents that may have far reaching implications for the health of the workforce, as well as the overall profitability of your business. It’s therefore logical that everyone will benefit if all employees are informed and educated.

The basics

While writing the best possible OHSAS Policy is always a good thing, but it simply won’t be effective if nobody reads it. Effective awareness and education of the OHSAS should be tied to specific processes in the Environmental and Quality Management Systems if you use an integrated system such as MyEasyISO. If you only have an OHSAS system, that’s okay too, but then you should create Training and Communication records for all employees. You can use any format that works for you, but it should contain at least the following:

  • Employee name
  • Date on which the policy or information was communicated
  • Date for refresher training, if applicable
  • Employee agreement and signature – this could be electronic or physical

Although this may seem very basic, with OHSAS issues it is critical that your employees are aware of all the policies, and any communication, legislation and other changes that might affect the company. Once an employee has signed to acknowledge a communication has been read, it paves the way for another vital part of any OHSAS system, i.e. employee feedback. The valuable input that can be used to assess risk and implement positive change often comes from an employee that works with the process daily and know it inside out. Ensuring that employees know about the initial procedures and policies and then updating them with details of any change formally will therefore enable them to express an opinion and start the feedback loop, always an extremely valuable tool. This will lead to a workplace that is safer and will also promote continual improvement.

Continual improvement

Continual improvement forms the basis of all ISO standards, including OHSAS 18001. When you implement corrective and preventive action, this becomes a fundamental tool that drives the cycle of continual improvement. You should however consider the following:

  • Where does the information and knowledge that is used to drive corrective and preventive actions come from?
  • How do you communicated continual improvement to ensure that it filters through processes, the workforce and the business as a whole effectively?

It is frequently valuable to increase awareness, involvement and training in a company by starting an OHSAS steering group or forum. Although you will still have to record legislation, policy, and other modifications in your Communication and Training record formally, such a group provides increased involvement, extra brainpower and varied opinions to the OHSAS system. It also provides extra focus on the importance of health & safety in the workplace, inspires suggestions and feeds the improvement loop. Make a point to record the outcomes and minutes of the group’s meetings formally. Although you will often have spirited discussions, there will also be some good ideas that have to be recorded so that they can be implemented in future. Remember, a forgotten idea is no idea at all. Make sure that the whole group’s opinions are valued and considered. Also make sure that all members understand how important OHSAS 18001 and its influence is for your health & safety performance.

When you encourage employees to discuss health & safety, it will increase awareness and knowledge, and places the importance of a safe working environment at the top of the organization’s priorities. This is positive for all stakeholders of your organization.

The importance of training and awareness are recognized by customers implementing ISO 14001 Environmental & OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety Management Systems (HSE) using the MyEasyISO software in Berlin (Germany), while ISO 9001 quality management systems (QMS) is implemented using MyEasyISO software in Rio De Janeiro (Brazil).

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