UK SME pilots integrated EQHS management standard

Tyne Tees Filtration, specialist manufacturer of bag filters for dust control, is the UK pilot for a new standard to integrate environmental, quality and health & safety management (EQHS) for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

One of ten companies across Europe to take part in the three-year, EC-funded project, ‘Innovative Methodology for an Integrated Management System for Environmental Protection, Quality Assurance and Labour Safety for SMEs in Europe’, Tyne Tees Filtration will be ‘coached’ through an integrated EQHS system methodology by Teesside Tertiary College, one of the EU project partners who include Daimler Benz, certification bodies TUV in Austria and Kiwa in Holland, and the lead body, Dresden University’s affiliate company, EIPOS.

According to ‘coach’ Terry Peacock, manager of the QMS unit of Teesside Tertiary College, there is a need to develop a system which is appropriate to SMEs.

“In our experience, one of the main problems with management systems for SMEs is the certification cost, so the key factor here is to have a system which will provide businesses with a single alternative to ISO 9000 (quality), ISO 14000 (environment) and BS8800 (health and safety).

“It needs to be in a language they can understand, it must add value not cost, it must simplify in-house auditing and allow third party certification in a single process, if companies want it. It must also have a self-certification option.”

He added, “While I realise it may not be realistic, my wish is that the system also be robust enough to handle any new legislation that comes out.”

The project came at just the right time for Tyne Tees Filtration, which is already certified to ISO 9002, but recognised that environment and health & safety would have to be addressed systematically.

Certification costs

“The cost of certification to three separate standards would be prohibitive for a company our size, with only 44 employees,” said Paul Bowen, the company’s production quality manager. “Because of this we were looking to develop a system that could be self-assessed. Also, we couldn’t dedicate any one person to each and every system. So a package like this is ideal because it can be undertaken by one person.

“At the very least, at the end of the pilot we hope to get a management system in place for environment and health and safety, even if we find integration is impossible. But we hope it will work as an integrated standard. We would certainly go for certification against it.”

Terry Peacock recognises that there is confusion among SMEs about the plethora of environmental management initiatives in the market, and admits “to a degree, we may well be adding to that confusion.”

“But each one of these schemes has merits,” he said. “A lot will be supplier chain driven as many SMEs won’t respond unless they are forced to by suppliers or by legislation.”

“It may well be that we will find there is no one system which will satisfy the needs of all SMEs,” said Peacock, “but assuming we come up with such a system, we hope the European Commission would endorse it.”

The project partners meet regularly and will feed back their experience of the pilots early next year. A full report will be submitted to the European Commission in October 1999.

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