ASQ - Energy and Environmental Division

This edition of QEHS Zine kicks off a discussion among EED members concerning whether or not the world needs an international standard on Health and Safety Management.

Tom Shelley, with BSI Management Systems, offers these thoughts:

"OHS is currently the poor relation in the ISO world, as there is no international management system standard as there is for quality, environmental, and information security.

"The reality is that OHS management is a moral imperative in today’s business climate.

"Increasing globalization means there is an economic need to establish a common framework for OHS management, in an attempt to ensure a level competitive playing field. Companies in the developing world commonly neglect their workers, do not provide adequate facilities or protection, thereby dramatically reducing their cost structure compared to Western companies.

"The development and promotion of ISO 18000 would allow enforcement of the moral imperative to provide a safe and secure work environment the world over and allow companies to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

"It’s a fact that industry is integrating Occupational with Environmental Management Systems, as it helps companies to run their businesses more effectively. However, this is difficult to do without a formal ISO OHS standard. Proof of this can be found in the fact that OHSAS 18001 is selling very well and being adopted across the world in place of an ISO standard."

Jerry Bynum advocates the need for a standard, such as the OHSAS 18000 standard in the United Kingdom, for establishing a much-needed international standard. Bynam noted in an e-mail to QEHS Zine that the safety regulations in the United States are a mess at this time. Federal regulations differ from industry to industry, and each state has a different set of regulations. "If you were a company in the U.S. doing business in various states, or a company from another country doing business in the U.S., wouldn’t it be nice to have just one set of guidelines to follow?"

Ann Phillips and Eddie Phillips submitted a paper for this debate entitled "Implementing an Occupational Health and Safety Management System," which is now posted on the EED Site under technical papers.

What do you think? Is an ISO 18000 standard an urgently needed management system to protect workers around the world and to create a level playing field? If so, why is it so slow in coming? On the other hand, would an international standard for health and safety be a problem for companies? Please submit articles and comments for the Spring Edition of QEHS Zine on this topic to jdew@aalan.ua.edu.

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