Many of my clients are looking at the next evolutionary step from having a stand alone safety, quality or environmental system. Integrating management systems has become an increasingly important competitive issue. A growing body of information indicates that facilities that integrate their environmental management system (EMS), safety management system (SMS) and quality management systems (QMS) can realise significant benefits, such as streamlined operations and decision-making, simplified employee training, more efficient use of resources, and most importantly a reduction in audit costs.
The three most common models for QMS, EMS and SMS (ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and AS/NZS 4801, respectively) share many common elements. This should be no great surprise, because ISO 9001: 1994 was one of the source documents used by the drafters of ISO 14001 and the ISO 14001 is referenced as a source document in the AS/NZS 4801. The three standards are very compatible in their current forms. The committees responsible for the development and maintenance of these standards continue to examine potential opportunities to increase the compatibility or alignment of the standards (Please note the 4801 is being updated currently to further align with the other major standards).
Facilities that choose to implement these standards generally find that they can use many common processes to conform. In general, the elements of a SMS, QMS and EMS can be categorized as either:
System elements in both the “essentially the same” and “similar” categories can often be addressed by a common procedure (or parallel procedures), although some customisation may be needed to address the differing overall purposes of these systems. Unique elements are typically dealt with in separate SMS, EMS or QMS procedures.
Some of the typical elements for integration include: document control; corrective/preventive action; training; records management; and management review. However, some facilities have gone much further—for example, some have developed common safety, quality and environmental policies. The degree of system integration varies widely from company to company.
While an risk management system (SMS/EMS) can be readily integrated with an existing QMS, the overall purposes of these two systems must be kept in mind. A QMS is intended primarily to ensure that a company satisfies its customers by assuring the quality of its products.
An risk management system generally has a broader context—the relationship between a company and the environment in which it operates. Also, a risk management system often concerns itself with a broader range of stakeholders, such as staff needs, neighbouring communities, customers, and regulatory agencies.
System integration can have safety and environmental benefits. By linking safety and environmental management more closely with day-to-day planning and operation, some facilities have been able to raise the visibility of safety and environmental management as a core organisational issue. In addition, these facilities enhance their abilities to address risk issues when making modifications to products or processes for quality purposes.
Facilities that have a QMS in place generally are better off when implementing SMS and EMS for several reasons. First, employees typically are already familiar with management system concepts and are involved in making the system work. Second, many of the processes needed for the SMS and EMS might already be in place. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), top management has committed the use of management systems to achieve company goals.