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Putting the ‘Q’ into HSE

In order to utilise quality to bring about an effective HSE system, first it must be defined. This in itself is a challenge as quality is often about the perception of the individual. Joseph Juran, principally remembered as an evangelist for quality, gave the definition as “fitness for use” whereas Philip Crosby, author of The Fourteen Steps to Quality Improvement, thought it was more a case of “right first time”. Perhaps the simplest definition is that of the Oxford English Dictionary which says “the degree of excellence of something.” Whichever definition is used, a quality approach to achieving effective health, safety and environmental responsibilities is one which can bring immediate benefits to the organisation.

Quality - easy to say, but is it a word that is over used and ill-defined? After all, which company believes they are not applying quality to everything they do?

The subject of quality has long been recognised, with quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement being the three main approaches to quality management. There are however well documented flaws and differing opinions on the effectiveness of these approaches when individually applied. Rather than focus on any one of the above, it is a holistic approach that will deliver quality in the successful management of HSE, from processes, procedures and people, through to suppliers of products and services, and the assurance and improvement in these elements.

There are five steps to successful Health and Safety Management, all of which share similarities to a quality management system; Policy, Organising, Planning/Implementing, Measuring and Improving. Following these steps with a quality approach will help you keep staff safe and injury free at work, while reducing the cost of injuries, illness and damage. Not to mention avoiding extremely damaging and costly legal actions that can sometimes follow as well as the incalculable human cost and suffering to those injured.

According to the Health & Safety Executive, you cannot be a ‘quality’ organisation unless you apply these sound principles to the management of health and safety.

Just as quality in practice has to be defined at the beginning of any process, quality in behaviour should begin at board level, influencing the HSE culture within an organisation to send a positive message to all stakeholders, importantly including the supply chain. Although there are many companies who believe that quality is a key factor in ensuring their success, especially in an environment that is high risk, competitive and selective - there are equally many companies who are not committed to a quality approach. This is often due to a lack of understanding of the link between HSE and quality, which in this case is very much about providing consistency, assurance and improvement.

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