ASQ - Energy and Environmental Division

Your company can only benefit from the expansion of its management system to incorporate quality, environmental issues, and occupational health and safety. Experience is showing that problems and issues are better managed through a planned and continually improving system, rather than by means of random, ad hoc solutions. Consider the following cases:

Case 1: An employee operates machinery without having first received the proper training. The employee misuses the machine and seriously injures himself to the extent that an ambulance is required to provide first aid and transport the employee to the hospital. Upon the employee’s return to work, the cause of the problem is not dealt with, and the injury is not reported externally in order for the company to retain its favorable insurance premiums.

Case 2: In an effort to improve yield on materials, rejected parts are fabricated into marketable products. The combination of substandard materials and excessive machining contributes to a fire, which requires the fire department to be called. After the fire is extinguished, the practice continues of fabricating substandard materials beyond the recommended engineering tolerances.

Case 3: Shipping and handling practices are intended to maximize the Number of products able to be transported. Products are stacked beyond safe heights, requiring shipping and receiving employees, against their better judgment, to lift products from 6-foot stacks.

Case 4: After an extensive layoff, there are not enough certified forklift operators. An untrained forklift operator drops a load of finished product from a height of 30 feet.

Case 5: The finishing process, which involves the application of chemical substances, exposes products to extreme conditions of temperature, air circulation, and humidity, and the heat causes the release of toxic emissions inherent in the product. Employees frequently enter the finishing area without proper protective gear. The products are transferred from the potentially toxic finishing area and are immediately packed and prepared for shipment to customers.

Case 6: Employees are instructed to enter confined spaces where toxic substances are present, without proper protective gear, in order to complete their daily tasks. The confined spaces are not equipped with adequate ventilation, illumination, or safety equipment.

Case 7: Key supervision staff arrive on their shift with evidence of substance abuse. After a cursory review of the schedule and staff, they retreat to the office to overcome their self-inflicted conditions.

Case 8: A container, which held a hazardous product and controlled substance, is rinsed to remove the residue. After rinsing, the diluted substance is poured down the drain, where it enters the main sewage line. When a 45-gallon drum is cleaned, the diluted substance is poured on the yard and allowed to seep into the groundwater.

Case 9: A confrontational management style is used to intimidate employees. Verbal threats and dramatic displays are used to punish employee failures and to force employees to be more productive, diligent, and accurate.

Case 10: Company officers knowingly detach themselves from involvement in or comprehension of contentious quality, safety, or environmental issues and delegate the responsibility to a lower-level supervisor who lacks the authority or resources to influence or control activities.

These are just 10 examples of ways a company can fail in its management of quality, environmental, and health and safety issues. These failures reflect lack of commitment by senior executives to address fundamental principles of sound management and can lead to serious consequences for the company and its officers—fines, penalties, or imprisonment. Examples also exist of companies that have successfully integrated these issues into a single management system.

If any of these examples apply to your organization or appear familiar to you, you should seriously consider the adoption of a QEHS system. Otherwise, the risks of such a workplace will exceed the potential rewards of working in an unsafe environment.

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