Industrial Deaths & ISO9000


Alan Cotterell

Industrial Deaths & ISO9000


In recent times there has been widespread concern in the community over the number of deaths in industrial incidents. It is believed by many, that most of these ‘accidents’ are preventable. As a result new laws are being prepared which require ‘risk assessments’ in many situations. These laws offer a new systematic approach to safety management.

What is a ‘risk assessment’? An example of a risk assessment occurs when a worker erects scaffolding. If he looks at an untightened clamp, and considers that it could cause an ‘accident’, the likelihood of the ‘accident’ occurring, and the potential consequences – that is a risk assessment.

(Risk assessments were often performed, by the bureaucrats who developed our current laws. These laws were usually passed after a serious ‘accident’ had occurred – they were essentially reactive. They were also specific for certain hazards such as asbestos and lead, however this type of law cannot cope with the multitude of dangerous situations encountered in the workplace.)

What happens when a risk assessment finds a problem? We have to ‘control the risk’. This means we can eliminate the source of the problem, or substitute a less dangerous alternative. We can ‘engineer out’ the problem.

Another way of handling the problem is by ‘administrative risk control’. This entails use of documented codes of practice and management systems.

What is a ‘code of practice’? A code of practice is a recipe. For example, it may be a generalised code, which specifies the order in which a building is put up, and requires risk assessments in certain situations. A code of practice is usually part of a ‘management system’.

The final level of control is use of personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, harnesses, ear muffs etc.

The proposed Victorian legislation for ‘Major Hazard Facilities’ (such as the Longford Gas Plant), requires submission to the Victorian Workcover Authority of a ‘safety case’, before a licence to operate will be granted. The safety case will have to specify the nature of the company’s Safety Management System. There is a requirement in the legislation, for workers to report circumstances with the potential for ‘accidents’, to their employers. In New South Wales the new health and safety legislation will require widespread use of risk assessments. This type of legislation will be taken up by the other states.

The use of risk assessments and safety management systems will probably cause a change of mindset, both in the workplace and in the community. We will all become more ‘proactive’ – this means planning what we do, and looking at ‘what could happen’ in various circumstances which might arise.

Let us hope that this new systematic approach greatly reduces the number of industrial deaths in Australia.
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Super Moderator
I can really talk on this issue seeing as i make my living in the safety community and have a degree in Occupational Safety.

In the US all employers are required to comply with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) requirements. It doesn't matter what type of business or size. There are some specific requirements that some employers may be exempt from but they are minimal.

By Federal and some state laws every task undertaken by an employee in the workplace must have a corresponding assessment performed, by the employer to identify hazards. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

You are correct when you say a majority of deaths are preventable.

Occupational injury and death incidents ( you notice I don't say accident) are caused by 2 basic things. Unsafe conditions and unsafe acts. Now what needs to be understood is that 95% or better (there is a lot of backup data on this) of the existing unsafe conditions existing in workplaces are there because of an unsafe act.

It can be easily defended that 99.999% of workplace injuries and deaths were caused by unsafe acts and less than 1% by a non-human created condition.

If , when creating ISO 9000 conformance programs, employers included as a matter of course, occupational safety regulations as part of their QMS programs you could see a reduction. ISO 14000 adresses this in some small ways.

Hope I didn't confuse you or anybody else.

David Mullins

This "new systematic approach" Alan is going on about has been around in Australia since 1985.
The policy makers are so scared, that the would-be Australian Standard 4801 "Occupational health and safety management systems - Specification with guidance for use" has been in its latest draft version since its issue on July 1 1998. There is no expectation for it to graduate from DRAFT in the next 12 months. (Note, this document was one of many used to develop OHSAS 18000)
No significant reduction in occupational deaths expected here any time soon!

The Longford gas plant that blew up leaving one quarter of Australia's population without gas for a month, was subject to licensing, assessments, inspections by the commission, etc., under the dangerous goods act. The ‘Major Hazard Facilities’ legislation Alan refers to is just another generation of the DG act and more government ineffectiveness. The legislation date back to the 1920's, with little improvement over time.

PS I don't know if Randy believes that all US employers fully comply with OSHA requirements or not, but as a safety professional I'm confident he is aware of the reality. I just wish Alan was!



Super Moderator
In the time that I have been involved in this field of endeavor I have come to the realization that, just like quality, safety is in the eye of the beholder and is something that is very easily set aside if it interferes with production.

Acceptable risk is the attitude of a good deal of business executives. I call it "shooting craps". It's all a big gamble with the stakes being the health and safety of employees.

In the environment where I presently work (as an employee of a contractor to the US Army on an Army installation) the common thought pattern of both the Army and contractors management is " we ain't got time for that bureaucratic BS", we can always get someone else.

This sounds hard but it is true. I've seen and heard it myself.

I'm sure it's true in some areas of the business world also.

[This message has been edited by Randy (edited 01 February 2000).]

Alan Cotterell

I really believe that the 'Major Hazard Facilities' regulations are a step in the right direction, however I agree with your comments about AS4801.
Did you know that in about 1986 the US sent 40 delegates to the ISO meeting in Geneva, with the express purpose of preventing development of a Health & Safety Management System Standard? One can only presume that it was the implications for Industrial Democracy which caused concern.
I suggest we need an ISO Standard for OHS Management Systems, It would change things globally.


Super Moderator
The problem that business has with a standard is one of pre-existing knowledge.

If an organization subscribing to a safety type standard were to have a serious incident involving injury or death, or if an OSHA audit were to find uncorrected safety hazards, and the organization's self audit program had previously identified them without immediate correction, the subsequant fines and prison sentences could break that organization. The term is "wilfull and serious". Wilfull meaning you knew and didn't correct. Any identified "serious" condition requires one of three actions.
1. Elimination by engineering means
2. Elimination by administrative means.
3. Minimization by use of protective equipment.

An employer that allows employees to work under identified hazardous conditions without mitigative action falls within the "wilfull and serious" catagory. In California each single offense is worth $70000. Now if the employer has 10 exposed employees that's $700,000 in potential fines for 1 violation.

This is one of the issues concerning the adoption of ISO 14000 by US businesses. Self incrimination only applies to individuals. Audit materials and other maintained documents become legal documents of record and are subject to inspection. Any non-corrected issue of non-compliance becomes a business killer and potential jail sentence for the "designated inmate".

See the problem by adopting standards that require compliance to "all applicable laws".

Alan Cotterell

Thanks for the info on self - incrimination. It is very interesting. Best Regard, Al


Super Moderator
Here is an example of what I meant about "Willful" violations and how previous knowledge and records can effect a business. This company is ISO 9000 registered.

This is just 1 reason that US businesses are slow to do ISO stuff because of the record trail and consequences.

Oh yes, this information is available to the whole world at:

Region 1 News Release:   BOS 99-200
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
Contact: John M. Chavez
PHONE: (617) 565-2075


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor has cited the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, Turbine Modular Center, located in North Haven, Connecticut, for alleged WILLFUL violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and has proposed penalties totaling $155,000 for those alleged violations.

According to Clifford Weston, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, Conn., the alleged violations involve the employer's legal responsibility to keep adequate and accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses, and to make those records available to OSHA officials during inspections of the workplace. Weston noted that the citations stem from an inspection of the Pratt and Whitney facility which took place April 27 through October 26, 1999. The inspection was scheduled as a result of a referral from a safety inspection conducted in February of this year. During that inspection, the OSHA compliance officer attempting to analyze the company's injury history noticed a number of violations of OSHA recordkeeping standards.

"The recordkeeping regulations," said Weston, "require employers to properly record all workplace injuries and illnesses as part of their overall compliance effort. Obviously, such recordkeeping is necessary to allow us to determine just how good a job an employer is doing at providing their employees with a safe and healthful workplace."

Nationwide, Pratt and Whitney facilities have been inspected by OSHA 94 times. In at least four of those previous inspections, the company was cited for recordkeeping violations. Such past experience indicates that the company is well aware of OSHA's recordkeeping requirements.

As a result, the company is being cited for four alleged WILLFUL violations, carrying proposed penalties totaling $154,000, for: failing to maintain an equivalent OSHA Log at their facility which is as readable and comprehensible as the OSHA 200 form; for calendar years 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, failure to record 71 recordable injury and illness cases; failure to make available supplementary records of occupational illness and injuries for the month of December 1996; and failure to make readily available complete and accurate OSHA 200 logs for the 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 calendar years.

Pratt and Whitney is also being cited for one alleged "other-than-serious" violation, including a $1,000 penalty, for failure to retain the signed and certified annual summary of occupational injuries and illnesses for the 1996 calendar year.

Weston noted that these are serious matters since the company was well aware that there was a high incidence of cumulative trauma disorders at the Pratt and Whitney North Haven facility. Many of these injuries culminated in surgery and yet were not recorded, were recorded without full lost work time, or were referred to as earlier instances. During the investigation, it was learned that employees were discouraged from reporting signs and symptoms of cumulative trauma disorders.

"The bottom line," said Weston, "is that our inspection revealed that many workers in the Pratt and Whitney North Haven facility suffered from cumulative trauma disorders that were either not reported or were under reported. Furthermore, the company did not produce all of the required records requested during the inspection."

He noted that this is why the company is being cited for alleged "willful" violations, OSHA's most severe category of infraction. In fact, a willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

"Without adequate and accurate workplace injury and illness records," Weston said, "it is impossible for either the employer or employees to recognize patterns of injuries and illnesses which might exist in various parts of the plant. This makes it equally impossible for the appropriate hazard abatements and preventative actions to be taken. The size of the proposed penalties in this case shows just how seriously OSHA takes this type of infraction, especially in a case where the employer clearly knew what needed to be done yet decided not to do it."

(The other-than-serious regulatory violation alleged in this case is an infraction with much less impact than the alleged willful violations and does not carry the same implication regarding the employer's attitude, knowledge or intent.)

Weston urged Connecticut employers and employees with questions regarding safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area offices in Bridgeport or Hartford. He added that OSHA's toll-free nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents and fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially those situations which occur outside of normal business hours.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

[This message has been edited by Randy (edited 02 February 2000).]

David Mullins

WILLFUL, unbelievable! This scenario is rather like not doing your tax return year after year, then still refusing when they (tax dept/IRS)warn you several times that you'd better do it.
Companies like that shouldn't be in business.
The example underlines the fact that a health and safety system can simply provide compliance to minimum (legislated) requirements, and thus save organisations going through the hoop.
The example seems to endorse the use of management systems to me!



Super Moderator
I wish it was that simple.

Remember, management systems are voluntary. There is no penalty for not using them .

Regulations are mandatory with severe consequences if they go un-heeded, and
there are tons of stories just like this one.

No voluntary management system will ever cause a dent in workplace deaths and injuries as long as management keeps blowing off the regualtory standards.

Compliance with the recordkeeping cited in this story costs absolutly nothing other than a few minutes of filling in the blanks on a form. OSHA even supplies the form free of charge. This recordkeeping is one of the
easiest things required by OSHA for an employer to do.

Here we're talking about an international manufacturing organization in the
aviation industry that is supposed to be conforming to international quality
standards. If they cannot maintain a simple document like the one identified above what does that say of the potential problems with other aspects of "Document Control".

Oh by the way, I didn't know about this article until today. I was interviewed in November to be the ESH Coordinator for this exact location. I would have been one of the responsible parties in this instance.

I have second thoughts now.
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