Potential Positive and Negative Aspects of Implementation of a Health and Safety Management System

Major Concerns - John Seddon deserves a great deal of credit for generally developing many of these ideas.


1) Provides an organized, structured approach to health and safety improvement.

2) Provides an opportunity to "institutionalize" improvement processes in order to sustain them. 

3) Emphasizes planning in place of "fire fighting."

4) Recognizes the critical importance of leadership.

5) Calls for the establishment of feedback processes including extensive employee participation.

6) Can provide a tool that almost all employees can use to participate in the continual improvement process.

7) Encourages mindful thinking about improvement through appreciation of interdependent processes and system dynamics.


























































1) Most management system standards lead to inspecting the subject area in wether it is quality, safety, environmental protection, etc.  Deming taught us that inspecting quality in reduces quality and undermines morale. Dr. Deming used to call inspecting quality in - scraping burnt toast.

2) Documentation is used as its primary control mechanism.

3) Management systems standards can be interpreted to imply that poor quality or safety or environmental control represents conformance if it satisfies policy and objectives.

4) Most of the documentation is primarily created for the auditors and is not helpful to the organization that is implementing the management system.  Management systems are based on the assumption that if something is documented, it was in fact done in a manner that conforms to a particular requirement. This assumption can potentially ignore the substance and quality of the process or procedure documented.

5) Procedures can assume that there is an infinite amount of time available to perform the task.  There is an underlying assumption that adherence to procedures will reduce variation.  Often rigid adherence to procedures reduces worker adaptive capacity and increases variation - sometimes making the workplace more dangerous..

6) When the reason for registration is coercion, from a customer, for example, the implementation of the management system can suffer.  

7) During audits, the organization's processes and documentation is compared to list of requirements, considered separately in isolation of other requirements and other parts of the system.

8) Many auditors see their job as catching people doing things wrong.

9) Too often there is significant variation in interpretation of requirements from one auditor to the next.

10) Unfortunately, many organizations begin with the goal of becoming registered to a particular standard rather than understanding and improving performance.

11)  Conformance with individual requirements in isolation rather than understanding and interconnections and interdependencies leads to system sub optimization.

12) Often organizations turn over control to external auditors by only paying attention to nonconformities identified during audits.

13) Many of these activities lead to people doing what you count and not what really counts.

14) Unfortunately, this discourages the organization from learning about variation.  

15) Organizations are seen as the result of complying with requirements rather than systems.

16) The interconnection of system parts, which ultimately determines system performance, is seldom addressed by requirements or auditors.  Again, auditors tend to consider each requirement separately in isolation from other requirements.  The interdependence of requirements not well understood. 

17) There can be a tendency to only set for goals for what can easily be measured, rather than around what is important.

18) Leads to mindless activity by focusing narrowly on conformance with requirements rather than improvement of operational processes and the system.