As a Small Business Owner, Why Should I Bother to Implement the ANSI/ASSP Z10 Standard, Or Really Any Safety Standard at All?

Upon hearing that they should consider implementing the ANSI/ASSP Z10 (or ISO 450001) standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMSs), many business owners immediately think that it would be too costly to do so. The reality is quite a bit different as a well-implemented OHSMS (if done properly) saves you money, makes your business work better, helps increase compliance, helps decrease risks and can help protect you from liabilities if things are done right.

Both of these standards are designed to give you a solid foundation for how your business can operate its safety-related systems and acknowledges and helps account for the interrelationships between parts of the business. Many business owners are so busy with the day to day realities of running their operations that they feel they have no time or limited time to examine how safety requirements are met. Sometimes, there is just a lot of trust and hope. This is where the Z10 standard can step in to help your business grow.

Unless your company does business internationally and has a supply chain that requires implementation of the ISO 45001 standard, it is likely that the Z10 standard can be an excellent fit for you and help you meet business objectives. It is written in an understandable way, with a substantial explanatory appendix and an excellent Guidance and Implementation manual. There is also an implementation manual for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). (The SME manual is available for free off the ASSP web site, by the way.) Organizations can implement the Z10 standard incrementally, and certainly don’t need to be perfect to start. And, from a cost standpoint, there is no need to involve a 3rd party registrar with Z10. If you ever need to report that you have an OHSMS in place – the Z10 should have all the required elements that a customer may want to see you have unless ISO 45001 is explicitly required. Also, note that if your organization ever needs to implement ISO 45001 at some point based on customer requirements – the work an organization takes to conform to the Z10 standard will go a long, long way. There are many similarities in requirements, but many would find the Z10 easier to use.

At their core, both standards are about safety, leadership and worker involvement, while acknowledging the interrelatedness of business functions. One cannot usually make changes to one aspect of a business (whether massive, sweeping changes, or changes that seem minor), without likely impacting functions that affect safety for better or worse. Doing one thing to one area can have direct and indirect changes and impacts on other areas of your business. What makes the lives of your billing department easier can make things a nightmare in shipping and logistics. Spur of the moment changes can sometimes help you and sometimes hurt you. These standards address how a business can ensure it is providing adequate resources to all departments, proper training to all employees, and auditing procedures that allow you to track what is working and what is not. Both standards are designed to give you a solid foundation and system to allow you and your staff to monitor workplace performance metrics, and make changes as needed.

The tools these standards provide help companies develop systems that are meant to be “continual improvement” based. Z10 operates on the concept of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) as a dynamic, nonlinear process. By starting with a plan (in consideration of the business context and issues that face it) you can assess what works, and what does not. After you implement the plan the process does not just stop. Systems are in place to check to see if your plans, goals, and actions taken actually improved your business. If the changes failed to meet expectations, then the final “Act” piece of PDCA is in place to prompt you to make further adjustments. Once your OHS system is in place, there will be periodic, routine processes in place to assess the business environment, plan action, take action, and check on the performance of the changes. Are you on target, or off-target? You’ll be able to see where you are falling down, where you need to improve, and have a system to make revisions. Periodic small adjustments serve to make your business more and more efficient every time you accomplish portions of the cycle.

Sixth Sense Safety Solutions can help you set this up. When we visit your locations, we first assess where you are at. Do you already have a management system in place? How does it compare to either standard? While many companies have a policy and procedure manual for safety, this is not the same as a system. A system requires companies to do what their manual says they are going to do. It is vital to check that procedures are in place to ensure compliance with legal requirements as well as your own policies. This protects your business and helps to minimize costly liabilities.

Another part of a typical review is to assess existing processes and procedures to ensure they are effective. Are they improving your business or wasted effort? We see what you have in place, perform a gap analysis, and work to develop a strategy for improvement. Once we know where you are at, and where you want to be, we can help you fill in any missing areas of your policies and procedures, or help you move toward the certification you wish. We offer tools to help you be able to say you conform to the desired standard.

As a small business owner, you do not want bad habits to spiral out of control as your business moves through stages of growth. Things that work well for a small business may be less effective when it becomes a medium-sized or large business. Small incremental changes can be easier and better to make as you go. You don’t want to start off in fundamentally the wrong direction or in a way that will make things much more difficult later. Approaching your safety this way can help minimize risk in each stage. It also helps position the company so that it does not suddenly need to make “huge” changes as it grows or has new business challenges and demands. A company that embraces these systems early can apply the basic requirements and concepts and locally determine the best approaches to an integrated safety management system. By treating the ANSI/ASSP Z10 standard as a framework to meet your needs, your business can avoid costly pitfalls.

Another key point is that it is vital that the leadership team be active in safety, and that it demonstrates that safety is a “value” to the organization. It is important that it helps set the right tone, the right expectations, the right culture. By implementing safety considerations early in decision-making and throughout its processes, business leaders can avoid costly injuries and crippling insurance premiums. Frankly, significant safety (and environmental) issues if not addressed properly, can even shut a business down. Yet through ongoing coaching, leaders can help their teams become safer and provide for sustainable safety performance. We can help with this.

Once at this point, Sixth Sense Safety Solutions can conduct mini-audits or periodic walkthroughs to help fulfill some requirements of the standards, help document compliance, provide for periodic training updates or otherwise just provide extra “eyes.” However, at this stage, your business should be fully able to manage many of the requirements for conformance or certification on its own.

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