Guest Post: by Douglas Kube, EP, CHSC, OHS-A
Senior Environment, Health & Safety Consultant
More and more organizations are responding to customers’ requirements and competitive pressures by integrating their environmental management system with other systems for quality, health and safety. The value of integrated management systems has been underlined in recent years by the development of a set of aligned standards. Standards such as OHSAS 18001:2007 (Occupational health and safety), CSA Z1000-06 (Occupational health and safety), ISO 9001:2008 (Quality), AS 9100C (Aerospace quality), etc. have evolved to use a common framework similar to that of ISO14001:2004 (Environmental). Although integration may produce numerous organizational benefits, it creates new challenges and opportunities for practicing environmental professionals.
By combining related components into a single management system, companies find it easier to manage operations and control risk. Integration reforms bureaucratic structures, driving operational excellence and strategic flexibility.1 Integration also promotes synergism and brings fundamental improvements, including the elimination of conflicts between individual systems and the optimization of resources (human and financial). By integrating common elements like objectives and targets, training, audits and key process indicators, organizations can reduce the duplication of effort, increase the likelihood of continued execution, and decrease management costs and paper work.2
It requires integration of business processes at a high-level to start, not just leveraging linked or common elements. It represents an opportunity to streamline, reduce bureaucracy and support compliance when systems are required by law, for example, safety management systems that are required for airports, airlines and approved maintenance operations under the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Implications for practice
Although it may be easy to justify integrating management systems, practicing environmental professionals may encounter numerous obstacles These include the obvious lack of competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) in other disciplines, the lack of resources to support the work, absence of employees' motivation to change, organizational silos and protectionism.
Integration results in several tangible and intangible gains for the organization as well as for a variety of internal stakeholders.3 Depending on a company’s management structure, environmental, quality, health and safety staff may reside in the same or different departments. Integration promotes links between key staff and there are real benefits to this cross-learning between departments. However, obstacles such as organizational silos, protectionism and the absence of employees' motivation, are quite common and difficult to overcome. To address these obstacles and the lack of competencies, companies have typically used this short-term solution: involve an independent management system expert to review systems, identify opportunities, facilitate and guide internal subject matter experts.
Environment, health, safety and quality professionals require multi-faceted competences to integrate management systems. Practitioners need to develop their skills in other disciplines including environmental management, occupational health and safety, risk management, quality assurance, sustainability and social responsibility. By developing these competencies and building their base knowledge,environmental professionals not only support the organization’s system integration, they also support their own personal growth and career development..
Integration of environmental, quality, health and safety audits can produce immediate efficiencies and cost savings. Although using audit teams in preference to individuals may be an effective approach, this usually highlights a fundamental challenge, the need for knowledge in a variety of disciplines (environmental, health, safety, quality, etc.). Performing integrated audits creates new challenges for environmental professionals and implications for the environmental sector. Many companies now turn to consultants for this breadth of expertise.
Management system integration has numerous implications. In order to create an effective integrated management system, environmental professionals need strong knowledge of the business and existing management processes. It requires knowledge and skills in management system fundamentals, particularly in business planning, objective setting, performance measurement, auditing and risk analysis, which remains an important tool for prioritizing actions and plans. Environmental professionals need to be able to look at management systems more generally and build their knowledge and understanding of good management practices beyond the environmental field. They should consider developing their business acumen and competencies, such as managing performance and teamwork. Teaming with other staff is critical when integrating systems and requires a professional to continually improve his/her own ability to work through others. This means developing skills in managing relationships, facilitating and managing groups, and creating high-performing teams.
About the Author
Douglas Kube is a Senior Environment, Health & Safety Consultant with Stantec. He is certified as an Environmental Professional (EP), an Occupational Health & Safety Auditor (OHS-A) by RABQSA International and as a Certified Health & Safety Consultant (CHSC) by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering. His principal area of practice is in environmental, health and safety compliance, management, auditing, assurance and emergency preparedness. In his 24 years of experience, he has held director level positions at Air Canada and Purolator Courier. Mr. Kube is a Fellow with the New York based organization Leadership for Environment And Development (LEAD) International.
Muhammad Asif, Fisscher, O., Joost de Bruijn, E. and Pagell, M., (2010) Integration of management systems: A methodology for operational excellence and strategic flexibility, Operations Management Research (2010) 3:146–160
Sai X. Zeng, Tam, V., Le, K.N., (2010) Towards Effectiveness of Integrated Management Systems for Enterprises (2010) ISSN 1392 – 2785 Inzinerine Ekonomika‐Engineering Economics, 21(2), 175‐179
Gilberto Santos, Barros, S., Rebelo, M., (2012) Quality, Environment and Safety - from individual systems to integration. A Portuguese case study, 6th International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management, 611 - 618