The OH&S “Binder of Intention” is NOT a Safety Management System!
When I ask people involved in OH&S Management about their Safety Management System (SMS), most are quick to pull out their Safety Management Policy Binder and wave it at me with great pride. Some also point to their Certificates on the wall.
Let’s call the Binder the “Binder of Intention.” The problem with that Binder as evidence of a SMS is that it only really describes what they would LIKE “the safety program” to look like. When we look closely at these Binders, we’ll see that they are really nothing more than an organized series of statements of how we would like things to be (one of the big issues with provincial Certificate of Recognition programs). It is certainly NOT evidence that any of the programs are actually happening or that policies are being enforced. In fact, many times we see serious gaps between what we want to happen in OH&S management and what is ACTUALLY happening.
In response to that need for a gap analysis, Raven Management Group have developed various standards to audit against. Some are international and some are tied to OH&S jurisdictional areas. These audits are not simply completed and issued to those companies hitting an arbitrarily established magic score numbers. Instead they are designed to show where you are performing well and why gaps are occurring and what corrective actions should be put in place so that the SMS actually becomes a true reflection of your actions.
The audit system have been tested to demonstrate their effectiveness and correlation/causation to results achieved.
Many of the features of audit instruments are intuitively good things to do and include things like Hazard Assessment, communications, training, documentation, problem solving etc.
So YES, every company needs an OH&S Binder of Intention. The Binder should describe as precisely as we can how we would like things to be at our companies. Then the task becomes defining the extent to which those statements are true. The Safety Management System is now the stated Intentions and our system has been independently audited and produces evidence of the execution of the intentions. Now THAT is a System! If we do a complete job of this intention/execution gap analysis and checking, we are well on our way to executing “due diligence” and protecting our employees.