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In recent times -in a scale that may be measured even in months- the safety and health discipline is facing a pattern already posed in a number of fields in the organizations according to which, a new management model starts to be stablished first and exclusively in the most important corporations and later, little by little, goes spreading to more and more organizations -usually by means of recognized standards- and finally becomes a management system at the disposal of any enterprise.
The concept of strategy applied to organizations´ management is relatively recent, 1960-70´s decades. At first, the managerial efforts were just focused on the optimization of the material, financial and funding resources. This strategic level of the organizations was little by little incorporating some other duties such as marketing, logistics, human resources, communication,… And now, it is the time of the safety and health field.
To better understand this approach, it is necessary to make a tour through the three main stages of the OSH performance in the organizations:
- The mandatory and administrative risk prevention (traditional);
- The risk prevention aimed at the customer´s satisfaction (ISO and OHSAS standards);
- Risk prevention within the organization´s sustainability strategies.
I emphasize the 3rd stage (sustainability strategies) since, due to its conceptualization and design, is the approach facilitating the incorporation of the safety and health performance to the strategic decision-making of the organizations; this objective, in general, wasn´t reached by the other two approaches, no matter that is was stated in their respective regulations and standards.
The idea of an OSH added to the strategic level of the organizations by means of their sustainability strategies followed the pattern described at the beginning of this article: it started in the 1990´s decade in the greatest corporations and was gradually applied to the rest of businesses.
In this time, many organizations already have their sustainability performance (environmental and social) stablished in their business models and the sustainability reports are compulsory, for instance, for the IBEX35 companies.
Last year 2014 the concept “sustainable prevention” became institucionalized and now, just a few months later, the firsts evidences of a massive spread of this approach start to emerge. It may be found in the path taken by many safety and health professionals who are getting specialized in strategic methods and tools, or in the new management approaches applied in many companies (healthy workplaces) or, namely, in educational programs -even MBA programs- on strategic OHS which are available in a growing number of universities and business schools.
It is finally happening! And it is coming very quickly.