Proactive and Reactive Approaches to Safety Management
In business, two common methodologies for problem solving are often observed. The first is a reactive approach. This is usually triggered once an incident or loss has occurred and often involves evaluating where things went wrong, what cost was incurred and what needs to be corrected or put in place to prevent recurrence. The other is a proactive approach. This is an initial assessment of what could go wrong, potential cost of an event and how to prevent issues before an event resulting in loss happens. As safety is an integral part of a business management system the same two common methodologies can be applied to the safety component of any business.
Why would a company favor a reactive method over a proactive method?
Some of the most common reasons provided for not implementing a proactive safety management system are: Our company is small, the work we do is low risk and the chances of a major incident are too low, the cost to implement and maintain the system are too high, we have never had a major incident before, our workers already know how to do their jobs safely, it’s a formality to bid jobs and doesn’t actually prevent injuries or losses.
Why is a proactive approach a more effective approach to loss prevention?
There are many reasons why a proactive approach is the more efficient and effective method to prevent losses. One of the most basics reasons is that Alberta OHS Legislation requires it.
Alberta OHS Legislation and the WCB Partnerships in Injury Reduction program outline the expectations for and encourages the use of a preventative approach to safety. The legislative requirements in the Act, Regulations and Code set a minimum guideline for what businesses and workers are required to do and held accountable for regarding the safety of themselves and those effected by the work being done.
To understand why the government built the inherent use of preventative measures into legislation we need only look back to the origins of OHS legislation implementation.
The origin of Occupational health and safety standards in Canada can be traced back as early as 1886 when Ontario introduced the Workmen’s Compensation for Injuries Act. Prior to this employer were not held accountable for the care or compensation of workers injured on the job. This act paved the way for future workers’ protection legislation on both the federal and provincial levels and eventually facilitated the creation of the the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.
Even with this foundation in place the first comprehensive health and safety act wasn’t introduced until 1976, when Alberta implemented it’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) after years of union campaigning and lobbying for increased worker rights and protection.
The government saw the need to legislatively require and enforce employers to assess the hazards of their work and implement appropriate preventative measures to protect their workers.
By developing, properly implementing, and maintaining a safety management system with a proactive approach an employer can ensure that they are meeting all their legislative requirements, and that should a major incident arise, they have the documentation required by the investigating party to prove that they did their due diligence as required by OHS legislation.
WCB Partners in Injury Reduction and COR
Another obvious reason for a safety management system is that it can be a source of fiscal savings and gain. The Partners in Injury Reduction program through WCB provides rebates for companies who have a Certificate of Recognition through an approved regulatory association. To achieve and maintain COR and qualify for this rebate employers must have a program that meets criteria set out by the regulatory association, such as the Alberta Construction Safety Association. Their program must also pass an annual audit to verify that they are using and maintaining their program. In addition to the rebate, the WCB uses the annual cost of compensation for reported injuries both by individual companies and industry sectors to set the rate that each company pays into the system. It is beneficial to both companies and the industry to use and encourage others to take a pro-active approach to prevention and implement a Safety Management System. This is one of the many reasons that companies have specific safety requirements for their subcontractors, including but not limited to, a Certificate of Recognition, a set threshold for incidents, lost time and WCB claims, documentation of how they met legislative and industry specific safety requirements.
Last but not least, one of the most overlooked and most valuable reasons to have a proactive approach and a safety management system is that when properly used and implemented it does lower the potential for losses from injury or property damage and can even improve the company’s efficiency and culture if developed and implemented with the intention to do keep everyone effected by the work safe.
While there are many more benefits to taking a proactive approach and building a safety management system, these are a few of the most common reasons. Companies of all sizes and risk levels can benefit from a properly developed, implemented, and maintained Safety Management System. It is common for employers to not be aware of all the hazards associated with the work they do, their legislative responsibilities, the additional benefits to having an effective safety management system and how to develop a system tailored to their specific needs.
For more information on how to maximize the value of your Safety Management System stay tuned for our next article. Follow us on Linkedin for up to date safety related information.