The concept of integrating safety and health into the business framework appears to be the next major focus for safety and health professionals. Today it even has its own acronym - ISM (Integrated Safety Management). And why not? The idea of streamlining how the business operates, interweaving safety with the systems, processes, tasks, and jobs of the business so finely that one cannot discern what is safety and what is in fact the actions people are doing should be the dream of every safety and health professional. Especially in this age of downsizing, rightsizing, streamlining, and increasing operational efficiencies, integration would seem to be the right thing to do in a business sense. And while many professionals profess this is what they want to have happen, the actuality of what really is occurring is in opposition. Typically what happens is that safety, like other departments within the organization, creates separate policies, procedures, processes, and guidelines. These are combined together and called a health and safety management system. Let's be clear, this author fully supports the belief that having some form of health and safety management system is imperative. What this paper is challenging is the implementation of that management system. The question is whether to focus the implementation for integration from a collaborative perspective or a competing one. The concern is that professionals are using the word integration, which requires a collaborative frame of reference, but their immediate and historical frames of reference are from a competing model. This paper will explore the author's belief of the current existing problem. It will then introduce the concepts around systems thinking and collaboration to offer a new frame of reference and understanding for safety professionals.
Most professionals in safety, if they have been in the field for any length of time, are familiar with the basic 3E's of safety - engineering, education, and enforcement. Engineering involves the practice of identifying safety hazards, evaluating those hazards for their risk potential (frequency versus severity models) to injury employees, customers or public (depending on your frame of reference), applying controls (engineering, writing procedures and developing training as administrative, and determining personal protective equipment) to eliminate or reduce the hazard, and re-assessing to ensure the controls are in fact working. Education involves teaching people about the hazards that exist in their jobs, which can't be completely eliminated, and the written procedures they must follow to ensure they don't get hurt. Enforcement involves punishing employees in some form when they do not in fact follow the procedures they were trained to do in the education phase. This 3E of thinking permeates every aspect of our being. It is the historical foundation for how safety professionals approach their work. It is further supported by regulations promulgated by governing agencies. These regulations for the most part follow the 3E's process by outlining what needs to occur when a new hazard is identified.