Have you ever noticed that there are many similarities between quality, health & safety, and environmental (QHSE)? I have a fair bit of experience of the first two of those and there is not much difference in their overall strategic management in an organisation. Sure, there are some differences in the actual subject matter, but the way they are managed is very similar.
The reason I say this is that the topic for this blog post is how we combine, or integrate, management systems into one overarching system. This makes a lot of sense…
Benefits of integration
If you are thinking of integrating your currently separate system, there are numerous benefits. Cost is certainly one, an integrated management system (IMS) sets requirements for a number of disciplines to be undertaken at the same time. For example, when completing an audit, the auditor could consider a process and audit QHSE, rather than just quality (and other issues at a later date), cutting down on the amount of audits required. Such minimisation of duplication is a key reason for integration. IMS’s can also consider numerous disciplines at the same time, reducing the chances of fixing one problem in one discipline but creating something else in another. Joined up thinking is what many organisations are trying to encourage anyway.
Disadvantages of integration
Well, nothing in life is perfect! If your current separate systems are working well, considerably changing your management system may well significantly threaten current arrangements. Integration may, in the short term at least, require a significant amount of resources to be spent on implementing the new way of management. There can also be a dominant discipline which means that the others don’t really get the coverage in an integrated system that they deserve.
What to integrate
In most situations, I think in the medium to long term at least, integration will be very beneficial. If you take a look at ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 45001 there are many similarities, with all working from the ‘plan, do, check and act (PDCA)’ approach. The PDCA implementation for each standard is very similar with the content being something along the lines of:
• Normative References
• Context of the Organisation
• Performance Evaluation
The extent to which integration occurs will vary. I have seen some systems that are totally integrated whereas others will have very little integration. I suppose this approach makes sense, if you have something that works well on its own why take the risk of integrating it with another discipline?
The ISO standards have been purposely designed so that they can be integrated with clause numbers and the terminology is the same, or at least very similar.
There are many parts of management that could be integrated. Let’s take a look at a few:
- Policies – there is a requirement for a policy for all of the QHSE standards and even some of the policy requirements to be the same e.g. commitment to continual improvement. Many companies therefore have an integrated HSE policy and some even add quality to the policy mix as well.
- Documentation – the types of documents required to fulfil the QHSE standards are similar. For example, operational control procedures that cover how to complete a task could cover QHSE requirements in one procedure. It would also seem a bit pointless to have separate document control procedures.
- Audit – the system to plan and deliver audits is essentially the same for all the QHSE standards. As we considered earlier it does not make much sense to complete numerous different audits of the same activity.
- Management review – all the standards have essentially the same requirements for a management review. It seems very inefficient to have three reviews in a cycle when one could cover all QHSE issues.
I guess you have probably realised from this post that I am a big fan of integrating management systems! It certainly is an effective means of improving organisational management and being more lean.
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MIEMA
With over 19 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.