The Importance of Continuous Improvement Plans in OHS

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Ryan Quiring

In recent years, corporations have come under increased scrutiny regarding their impact on society and the environment. A significant area of concern is related to employee well-being and injury prevention. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately 2 million workers die annually from work-related accidents and diseases. At the same time, millions more suffer injuries that result in disability or long-term illnesses (ILO, 2019).

These statistics highlight the critical need for companies operating in high-risk sectors to implement effective Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) measures. However, achieving this goal requires more than just adhering to regulatory compliance standards; it necessitates developing Continuous Improvement Plans (CIPs) designed to enhance operational efficiency while improving worker safety. 

This article explores the linkages between sustainability, profit generation, and CIPs for OHS in high-risk industries. By examining relevant case studies and theoretical frameworks, we aim to provide insights into how these three concepts interrelate and what strategies organizations can adopt to ensure sustained success. 

Profit generation, sustainability, and continuous improvement

Sustainable Development and High-Risk Industries 

According to the World Commission on Environment and Development report “Our Common Future,” sustainable development refers to meeting present needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their requirements. While traditional interpretations of sustainable development focus primarily on environmental conservation, increasingly, the term has broadened to encompass social and economic dimensions. Sustainable development is vital for long-term prosperity by balancing ecological preservation, social justice, and financial viability.

High-risk industries pose unique challenges concerning OHS due to inherent risks associated with their operations. The construction industry is one of the world’s largest employers, yet it also accounts for substantial workplace fatalities. As per the International Labour Organisation’s report (2019), around 3% of global fatalities occur in the building sector, translating to almost 11,000 lives lost annually. Therefore, addressing OHS concerns in these sectors becomes crucial for promoting sustainable development.

Continuous Improvement Plans (CIPs)

CIPs involve systematically identifying and rectifying weaknesses in organizational processes continually. Through CIPs, firms seek to enhance productivity, reduce costs, improve quality, and optimize resource utilization. In addition, CIPs are instrumental in mitigating risks and preventing harm to employees by introducing proactive OHS protocols. CIPs represent a strategy to streamline internal processes while increasing external value creation. 

A prime example of CIPs being implemented successfully through CIPs and safety auditing is PCL Constructors Inc. This construction firm specializes in building commercial, institutional, industrial, and civil projects across North America.

PCL Contractors COR

To promote safer working conditions and prevent accidents, PCL developed a comprehensive safety culture that includes regular safety meetings, job site inspections, and ongoing safety training programs. As part of this effort, they joined the COR safety program in 2007 and achieved certification by meeting strict safety requirements set forth by the Canadian Federation of Construction Contractors Associations (CFCCCA). Since then, PCL has maintained its COR status every year, demonstrating its commitment to excellence in OHS practices. 

According to PCL, participation in the COR safety program has led to a notable reduction in recordable incidents since 2007. The program requires companies to undergo independent third-party audits every three years to ensure continued adherence to safety protocols. By implementing CIPs based on audit findings, PCL was able to identify areas for improvement and address them accordingly. 

Furthermore, PCL developed a Safety Leadership Program to train supervisory staff on leadership skills, communication techniques, and safety best practices as part of their continuous improvement efforts. This program helps ensure consistency in safety messaging and promotes accountability among leaders at all levels of the organization. 

Overall, PCL’s involvement in the COR safety program is a testament to the effectiveness of CIPs in reducing incidents and promoting safer working environments underpinned with sustainability. It highlights the importance of collaborative efforts between businesses, regulators, and industry associations in driving positive change towards sustainable development. 

Profit Generation

While prioritizing employee safety may seem counterintuitive to maximizing profits, numerous reports suggest otherwise. Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review demonstrate that companies with superior OHS records tend to outperform those with suboptimal ones. One reason for this correlation could be attributed to lower insurance premiums resulting from fewer claims filed against insurers by safer enterprises. Additionally, reducing employee turnover rates due to better working environments leads to cost savings associated with recruitment, training, and orientation expenses. Furthermore, enhancing productivity levels facilitated through CIPs enables higher output volumes, leading to increased revenue streams. 

Case Study Analysis

One case study worth mentioning is BHP Billiton’s experience in implementing CIPs focused on OHS to understand the dynamics. The company’s commitment to improving OHS led to the establishment of an integrated OHS program called ‘Beyond Zero.’ Beyond Zero involves a holistic approach to managing OHS risk factors by incorporating them into all aspects of operations, supply chains, and communities surrounding its facilities. This initiative resulted in Zero fatalities over the past three years and a 30% reduction in injury frequency (TRIF, TRIR). Such a remarkable improvement directly impacted the firm’s bottom line by decreasing compensation payments, medical care, and rehabilitation services. Moreover, BHP received recognition from international bodies such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for demonstrating outstanding corporate responsibility regarding OHS performance. 

Literature Review Data

Several models explain the association between sustainability, profit generation, and CIPs for OHS. For instance, Porter and Kramer’s ‘Creating Shared Value’ concept suggests that creating value for stakeholders such as employees, customers, and shareholders concurrently improves business outcomes. This perspective highlights that firms can align their strategic objectives with societal goals to deliver sustainable growth. Another model, the triple bottom line (TBL) framework, emphasizes the integration of economic, social, and environmental considerations in decision-making processes. Implementing CIPs aligned with TBL principles can enhance OHS performance, strengthening corporate reputation and market competitiveness. 

Conclusion

Based on case studies analysis and literature review findings, it is evident that sustainability, profit generation, and CIPs for OHS are closely interlinked in high-risk industries. Companies investing in CIPs centred on OHS typically enjoy lower costs, greater productivity, and a better reputation among investors and stakeholders. By embracing a comprehensive approach to managing OHS risks, firms can realize multiple benefits beyond mere regulatory compliance, including financial gains and reputational advantages. As such, policymakers should encourage companies to develop CIPs tailored to their specific circumstances to promote sustainable development in high-risk sectors. 

AuditSoft Powers Continuous Improvement

Our mission is to revolutionize the world of OHS assurance data by ensuring organizations collecting, accessing, using and sharing data are doing so in reliable and trustworthy ways, fostering collaboration, transparency, and unparalleled insights.  

To do this, when firms are audited through AuditSoft, they gain access to their company scorecard, which provides them with an actionable continuous improvement plan, spelling out exactly what would benefit them to integrate before their next audit. 

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