QMI Brief Newsletter

3/9/2007
Does Your OHS Program Meet Due Diligence Expectations?

'Safety First' is a banner that you will see in many workplaces today.

Yet, in Canada and the U.S. alone, there are approximately 6,500 workplace deaths every year due to traumatic injuries. On average, more than 16,000 workers are injured or made ill every day.

In the face of these staggering workplace injury and illness statistics, increasing lawsuits and penalties on organizations and individuals – plus the possibility of criminal prosecution – more and more CEOs, managers and supervisors are recognizing the importance of doing more than just the bare minimum when it comes to workplace health and safety.

The words 'Due Diligence' and 'Reasonable Care' in the context of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) typically refer to the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the circumstances to avoid harm to workers in the workplace.

In the unfortunate circumstance that there is an OHS incident, good intent will not suffice. Organizations must be able to demonstrate – through actions, documents and records – that they have taken all reasonable precautions to prevent the incident. Depending on the jurisdiction, the satisfactory demonstration of due diligence may be considered a mitigating factor by the investigating authority or the courts, and may result in reduced liability to the company or individual.

Top management must set the direction through policies and procedures, and must provide the leadership and resources to implement an OHS program that will demonstrate a reasonable standard of care and will protect workers from work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

While the specific circumstances in individual cases will differ, an organization is expected to have certain components of an Occupational Health and Safety program in place in order to demonstrate due diligence. It must also possess relevant documents and records to show that the program is effectively implemented and maintained. These components include:

  • Documented OHS policies and procedures
  • Defined responsibility, accountability, authority
  • Compliance with relevant legal and other requirements, including industry standards
  • Processes for ongoing hazard and risk identification and assessment
  • Preventive and protective control measures to eliminate or minimize risk
  • Provision of training, equipment and other resources needed
  • Effective communication and feedback processes relating to the OHS program, including information on workplace hazards and risks, and the associated control measures
  • Emergency prevention, preparedness and response processes
  • Effective implementation of OHS procedures and practices
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the OHS program and related activities by managers, supervisors and others
  • Corrective and preventive action processes, including disciplinary measures
  • Incident reporting and investigation processes
  • OHS program review by management

Depending on the circumstances, organizations may consider other additional steps to gain assurance and demonstrate that all reasonable precautions to protect worker health and safety are in place. The recording of any such actions, showing due process, sound judgment, and the use of experts where required, can demonstrate that due diligence is exercised.

All of the above components and more are inherent within a structured Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS), such as CAN/CSA Z1000, ANSI/AIHA Z10 or OHSAS 18001.

Companies that have a functional and effective OHSMS based on these standards are therefore better able to eliminate or reduce hazards and risks, and prevent or minimize injuries, illnesses and fatalities. An OHSMS provides a structured framework for identifying, assessing and managing hazards and risks, and for continual improvement of the OHS performance of the organization.

The documents and records associated with the implementation of the various requirements of these standards, in conjunction with other information demonstrating organizational responsibility, leadership and commitment can contribute to proving OHS due diligence.

In addition to the reduction in occupational injury and illness, there are financial benefits as well. Aside from reduced insurance and health care costs, having fewer OHS incidents means that employees spend less time away from work, which directly improves productivity. This also results in reduced staff replacement costs (hiring, training), fewer work errors by replacement staff, and a higher quality product.

The investment in implementing an OHSMS can provide significant benefit to organizations through improved employee well-being and satisfaction, improved employee retention, the ability to attract the best new skills, and the enhanced reputation in the community and industry.

QMI is North America's leading OHSMS registrar, and has an extensive team of OHS auditors who are experienced, perceptive, and able to interpret the requirements of the standards to benefit your organization, and guide you smoothly through the registration process.

QMI offers a comprehensive portfolio of training courses covering the requirements of CAN/CSA Z1000, ANSI/AIHA Z10, OHSAS 18001 as well as OHSMS Internal Auditor and Lead Auditor training courses. You can see a complete listing of our training courses on our website at http:www.qmi.com/training.

If you would like more information about this article, or how one of QMI's OHS registration programs can benefit your organization, please call QMI's OHS Product Manager, Khurshed Kutky, at (800) 465-3717.

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