Improving the SMS is one of the most important safety staff activities. Actually, as in-house consultants, it's the most important goal. To do this, we first need to identify what we have. Next we need to compare what we have with what we know works best. Once we have this information, we can then make improvements. In this module, we'll study the general steps in the SMS analysis and evaluation process.
Not knowing why things get better or worse is always a problem for a business. If it gets better "for no reason," later it will probably get worse "for no reason." "The point is, it's not enough to know that something works. It is vitally important to know why it works.
(Aubrey Daniels, Bringing Out The Best in People, p. 14)
Webster defines the term, analysis as, "the breaking down of the whole into its constituent parts to determine their nature." In this first step, the objective is to determine the status of the system by determining which components of the SMS are currently in place. We want to know what programs we have, and what programs we don't have.
To do this, conduct an initial comprehensive baseline SMS survey. This baseline survey examines the entire SMS to determine current in-place system components. System components include safety programs, plans, policies, processes, procedures, practices, people involved, and the performance measures. In this course, we'll refer to these system components as well as others.
Bottom line, if a program doesn't exist, we may have a system design problem. If the program does exist, but isn't performing well, we may have a system performance problem. To determine this, we need to conduct system evaluation.
Conducting a baseline survey and basic audit of the SMS tells us what the system generally looks like, but it does not tell us enough about why the system is working or not.
We need to "dissect" each program within the system through more focused surveys, interviews, observations, inspections and audits to examine each component.
It's important to understand that we need to analyze all apparent positive and negative effects uncovered to know why programs are effective as well as why they are not.
If a particular program doesn't exist or isn't performing well, it can (and probably will) affect other programs in the SMS. We need to take a closer look at each program by conducting a focused analysis of each SMS program.
To do this, we can use a number of tools such as:
We can arrange the causes of accidents into four basic categories: unpreventable acts, hazardous conditions, unsafe/inappropriate behaviors, and system design/performance weaknesses. Studies are all over the map as to the specific percentages for each cause category, so we will generalize the degree to which each category causes accidents in the workplace.
The information uncovered by the baseline surveys and focused program analysis will include:
As we mentioned earlier, these surface causes also represent the surface symptoms giving clues about underlying root causes. The conditions and behaviors you see are merely the effects of these underlying causes.
Symptoms are observable, measurable, unique conditions and behaviors. Again, this is important: They represent the effects of less obvious root causes. Remember, every effect has a cause! To eliminate the visible surface symptoms or effects, we need to accurately diagnose and treat the underlying root causes.
Analysis of the information gathered by the baseline survey and program analysis will also identify possible underlying root causes for the symptoms described above. We will find programs or parts of programs may be missing parts or nonexistent.
Design weaknesses are basically a failure to plan the work. They describe the overall "condition" of the SMS. They also represent the "deep" root causes for the symptoms above.
The resulting effects of a system that is not designed adequately are system performance failures.
Performance weaknesses describe a failure to work the plan. The system fails to "behave" properly. The system's behavior is a function of the performance of the people within the system.
Do you see why conducting the baseline survey and program analysis is so important? These processes are capable of providing a wealth of valuable data that can help safety staff develop solutions and make recommendations that can dramatically improve employee safety. Once again, we cannot emphasize enough how important to understand every cause has an effect. What you see are the effects. What you must uncover are the hidden root causes.
Bottom line Idea: If you deal with the causes, the symptoms do not arise.
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