Technical post: impacts analysis applied to safety and health management: identification, prioritization and review

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Definition of impact

Going again to the GRI sustainability reporting guidelines [1], the term “impacts” of an organization refers to:

“[…] significant economic, environmental and social impacts that are: positive, negative, actual, potential, direct, indirect, short term, long term, intended, unintended”

Impacts analysis is the method to identify and prioritize an organization´s impacts. This post is all about this: a method to analyze the impacts.

Note: sometimes, an impacts analysis may be similar to a “problem demarcation” process; their difference is conceptual, more than operational. In fact, in previous posts I used the term “problem demarcation” to refer the organization´s impacts.

Impacts analysis: connection with the groups of interest´s analysis

Going to a global view, an impacts analysis is the next step to the stakeholders analysis (treated in the previous post): they both are tools working in sequence to establish an organization´s objectives and strategic policies.

Impacts analysis steps: identification, prioritization, review

In a simplified model, an impacts analysis has two stages: identification and prioritization, completed with the review/validation by the organization´s managers:

  1. the identification consist of a comprehensive list gathering all the relevant impacts -including the impacts of current or planned objectives- related to all the activities, products, services and relationships of the organization, be they inside or outside the organization [2]. To perform a proper impacts identification, the organization must:
    • assess the economic, environmental and social critical points from the analysis of the day-to-day activities, using analytic tools, internal discussions or expert´s advice;
    • consult the key stakeholders (employees, shareholders, society, clients and suppliers);
    • take into account the public and local perception affecting the “license to operate” (that recognized and provided by society);
  2. to prioritize the impacts, taking into account the organization´s strategy and the importance and influence of impacts in the groups of interest. The list of impacts from the identification (point 1) and the outcomes from the actor analysis of the previous post, are the input data of the impacts prioritization, which may be ordered in a chart like this, where each impact is characterized (the table is fulfilled with random data as an example):


The graph shows, at a glance, the characterization of each impact according to the data in the chart. In this way, the objectives and measures regarding each impact are much more easier and solvently stablished. In this case, once the validation/review by the management board, the organization should start addressing the actions related to the impacts placed in the up-right corner, the darkest blue area.

Application to the OSH management

There are a number of methods, systems and weighting criteria to perform an impacts analysis, and are based on the organization and the ends aimed with the analysis.

Anyway, the impacts analysis is a process that incorporates the safety and health management to the sustainability and social responsibility strategies, for the same reason that in the case of actor analysis:

the different stakeholders -including the own society- and also renowned standards and states legislation, introduce more and more OSH requirements to the organization´s performance [3]

Stakeholders and impacts analysis are the sort of tools that the safety and health professionals must be skilled to run, in order to incorporate the OSH management to the sustainability and social responsibility policies, which is a model that will gain weight in further years.

There will be further post on the issue, mainly refereed to organizational, communication and strategic aspects. You may get due notification of it….

[1] GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE. 2013. G4 Sustainability reporting guidelines - Reporting principles and standards disclosures. Page 92. Consulted 23 oct 2014.
[2] GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE. 2014. Curso certificado de formación GRI G4 - Proceso de elaboración de memorias de sostenibilidad - Manual del curso. Page 47. Consulted 31 oct 2014.
[3] ARAGON VALLEY. 11 sept 2014.The position of the occupational safety and health within organizations´ sustainability strategy. Consulted 1 nov 2014