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Current trends and future developments in occupational health and safety risk management

Domenii publicaţii > Stiinte ingineresti + Tipuri publicaţii > Capitol de carte

Autori: Roland Iosif Moraru

Editorial: Jan Emblemsvag, IN TECH, Book:: Risk Management for the Future - Theory and Cases, ISBN: 978-953-51-0571-8 , p.3-28, 2012.


Occupational safety and health (OSH) like all facets of business, needs to be properly managed. A company’s occupational health and safety management system helps ensure effective control of OSH risks and continual improvement in performance. The basic aim is to prevent work-related illness or injury. On the other hand, companies, managers and workforces change. Regulators, unions and contractors change. The change is slow and often difficult to perceive from within the industry. The industry has a long tradition of reactive and people-dependant management systems. Achieving compliance with regulations and standards is not enough any more. On the contrary, it should be regarded only as a solid foundation for a more general and comprehensive approach, directed towards the integrated well-being of workers and a sound, effective and sustainable development of the economic organization.In Romania, since 2006 when the new Occupational Health and Safety Act have stated that the risk assessment is compulsory, several approaches were in use but only one method is extended. It appears as obvious that a large number of practitioners are resorting to a single method, without considering the great variety of working systems and conditions which are requiring specific approaches and techniques. Methods are used to rank the risks and to define priorities for actions – which is certainly very desirable – but often by neglecting the analysis of the elements defining these risks, their latent causes and the means of improving the situation. Therefore, instead of leading to a proactive approach, the risk management still has the features of a reactive one, on day-to-day basis.
It is outlined the basic requirement, that the company culture must be willing to embrace the risk assessment process (as core of the global OHS risk management process) and that cultural acceptance starts from management leadership. Emphasizing some of the major benchmarks in occupational risk assessment approaches, another section summarizes and highlights several basic principles directed towards practical risk assessment stage improvement.
This section will discuss the principles that underlie a coherent and efficient assessment for occupational health, safety and well-being, namely the need for a global approach of these problems not only at the workplace but for the whole of the living conditions at work; a clear understanding of the complementary character between the different partners involved in prevention; the “main actor” role of the worker and therefore the absolute necessity of a participative approach; the real usefulness of measurements and of risk quantification in general.
Accent is put on how a sound risk assessment approach can lead not only to better risk management, but to the pro-active prediction of occupational risk accidents and incidents and ultimately their prevention, considering the need of changing minds when it comes to occupational risk assessment and management. Based on the above-mentioned benchmarks, several “good practice” principles directed towards practical risk assessment process improvement are stated.
A final goal of the section dedicated to the risk assessment stage refers to a quite sensitive issue, related to risk quantification. Over the years, many investigative tools were developed and employed in OHS risk estimation, analysis and evaluation.
We proceed to a conceptual analysis of one of the most usual category of methods, highlighting their advantages, drawbacks and discussing the subjectivity in risk assessments. Paradoxical, one of the most important advantages of the certain methods is meanwhile a handicap: we are arguing about a numerically expressed risk assessment.
We conclude that the practical use of the so – called “Kinney-type” methods indicates that a misuse can lead to a variable risk factor list and diverging scores, according to the competency and expertise of the assessor. It follows that the emphasized priorities can be completely different from an individual to another. On the other hand, even if the figures obtained can be useful in increasing the awareness of an organization’s top management, the quantification is limited. It gives only the appearance of a mathematical evaluation, without really having the rigour of such an approach. However, as far as certain aspects are not disregarded or neglected, these methods are preserving their goal and reason to be in the future, while they are participatory and, consequently, didactical methods. Employed on teamwork basis the analyzed methods can be valuable tools, while they are not complex and can facilitate a thorough analysis of elementary risk constituents.
Risk treatment and decision making are approached on the ISO 31000 standard’s philosophy too, always keeping in mind the continuous and iterative character of the “communicate & consult” and “monitor & review” stages, emphasizing the increasing role of safety culture, the last one entailing the collective values and attitudes of the people within the organisation
Another trend of the move from the technical – or rules-fix to a continuous process of control and learning is that it demands much more participation. There are good reasons to target the behavioural aspects of safety, as part of an integrated approach to safety management. During the past 15 years, large improvements in safety have been achieved through improved hardware and design, and through improved safety management systems and procedures. However, the industry’s safety performance has levelled out, with little significant change being achieved during the past few years.
A different approach is required to encourage further improvement. The final section of the chapter is devoted to technical risk management, based on two kinds of epistemological assumptions existing in this field of research, namely “the positivism” and “the constructivism”. The constructivism considers safety as a social and organizational construction, as a result of symbolic representations projected by workers in the working processes. From this perspective, safety is basically determined by organizational and human variables. This approach is consistent with the future development related to the occupational health and safety connection to the Corporate Social Responsibility. The positivist and constructivist sights of operational safety, which initially appeared as opposite, even irreconcilable, may be – and should be – seen as complementary, we believe.

Cuvinte cheie: Securitate si sanatate in munc a, Evaluare si tratare, ISO 31000 // Occupational Health and Safety, Risk management, , Assessment and treatment, ISO 31000