Respect Your QHSE Compliance System

Posted by Craig Thornton

Take a process-based approach 

Most businesses have three core systems - accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and compliance.

The accounting system is the proven way of meeting your financial obligations.  It’s how you manage your financial processes and meet your tax responsibilities. 

The ERP system is the way you realise your product or service.  It manages purchasing, inventory and production/service delivery times in order to meet customer expectations.

Your compliance system is where you manage your regulatory requirements in an ethical way.  It helps manage staff behaviour and meet your legal obligations for a safe working environment, as well as the expectations of your stakeholders.

Common Traits

The three systems have much in common.  There are values, principles and legislation at the core of each system, guiding and shaping them.  All three systems are honed over many years, using the expertise and experience of colleagues, outside experts, software developers, engineers, academia and many others.  


 Respect sign with road background


Good systems take years – and truckloads of expensive resources - to develop and bed-down.  There are no shortcuts.  As Deming once said: “It does not happen all at once - there is no instant pudding”. 

But somehow, as necessary as they obviously are, compliance systems never get the same level of respect as accounting and ERP systems. And I’m afraid that QHSE compliance professionals must shoulder much of the blame for this.

In my experience, many businesses seem to have little problem with allowing QHSE managers to change their compliance systems without due process, often for the slightest of reasons – the manager doesn’t like the layout of the documented system for example, or they have a personal agenda driving them, or they have a particular personal style they want to impose.  Good, sturdy business processes don’t seem to factor into it.  It can be an absolute free-for-all.

The accounting and ERP systems have processes in place to ensure that changes to the system are discussed, approved and reviewed - and managers respect this.  Can you imagine being given a free-hand to change accounting codes because you didn’t like the way they looked?  Or how about if you could just up and change a core data-set in an ERP system so that profitability and delivery times were affected?  No, I didn’t think so.  QHSE managers need to run the same tight ship that their fellow accounting and ERP managers do.   

So how can you improve the respect shown to the compliance system in your organisation?

  1. Use a formal change process

    This must include three things - process owners, formal approval of changes and training of staff in the changes made.  Remember, no shortcuts.

  2. Stop tinkering and pottering

    It’s not the role of a QHSE manager to tinker around on the margins – their role is to drive real change.

  3. Have a process-based approach

    Call on proven principles and tools (like Lean) to drive out waste and remain focused on what’s important.

The takeaway

Tweaking and fiddling with your compliance system without due process seriously belittles the system. Sure, you may be the guardian of the system but that doesn’t mean it belongs to you.  It belongs to the organisation and costs a great deal of time and money to create a good one.  Respect is demonstrated by ensuring change is controlled and transparent. 

Tags: QHSE Compliance System