The beginning of a new journey: Integrating QHSE
After 6 years of managing Quality at a medium sized engineering services firm in the Oil & Gas industry, Safety Management Systems suddenly became a priority due to events in the Gulf of Mexico. I personally hadn’t managed Safety in over 20 years, and suddenly I was asked to create a Safety Management System (SMS) along with managing Quality.
We had quality control, inspections, receiving and purchasing procedures, and work instructions that taught our shop workers how to fabricate and assemble our products. These process descriptions had been created when the need arose. But there was no real organization to the documents. After a while we figured out that we needed to track the nonconformances with our processes, and the corrective actions. From there, we started keeping records of our process changes and regularly reviewing the procedures. At that point it became clear we should build an ISO 9001 Management System.
Using the ISO 9001 model, we developed management requirements and created a tiered management design to distribute responsibilities and authorities to operate our business processes, in addition to our production and fabrication departments. Until that point, we had some basic safety policies that supported our activities. Then, some of our larger customers wanted copies of our safety, health and environment protection policies when our employees worked at customer sites. So we brought the offsite SHE policies and procedures under the ISO change control.
Customer Project Managers of big customers wanted to be sure that our employees followed standardized SHE policies when working on their projects. Soon it became obvious that we had to organize our document control for all of QHSE.
We kept up with OSHA regulations and made sure that our policies and procedures met those requirements. We thought about using the OHSAS 18001 Safety Management System, but we preferred a system that followed American standards. So we stuck with OSHA compliance for several years.
In 2015, ISO published a new version of 9001 and a new version of 14001 for Environmental Management Systems. The two new versions were aligned so that the paragraph numbering that was now going to be the same for both disciplines. This lends itself to integrating the two systems with very limited cross-referencing.
In 2018, ISO published 45001 for Safety Systems, replacing the previous OHSAS standard. And it is based on the same organization as 9001 and 14001. This makes it so much easier to build an Integrated Management System, because the references are pretty much the same in all three standards.
With OSHA’s pending alignment with ISO 45001, and the continued effort to make organizations leaner, many “Quality” and “Safety” managers are finding themselves with an incentive to integrate the disciplines into “QHSE”.
Have you encountered this in your professional life? If so, what are your thoughts on its impact on the disciplines, and do you think it is good or bad for our careers as QHSE professionals?