How do I use Plan-Do-Check-Act to Manage Safety Well?

7 minute read | Jan 30 2019

Plan-do-check-act for success in management

Health and Safety is managed in the same way as any other aspect of business. Management control is typically exerted through a cycle of Planning, Doing, Checking and Acting (PDCA). I’ll provide a practical guide on how to use the PDCA model for health and safety issues in your day to day role at work.

Setting the scene for PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT (PDCA)

In the UK the Health and Safety Executives (HSE) guidance on “Managing for Health and Safety – HSG 65” follows this Plan – Do – Check – Act model. This Plan- Do-Check-Act framework is a continual improvement cycle and aims to achieve a better balance between the behavioural and systems aspects of health and safety management. This PDCA is relevant to any part of health and safety whether we are looking at incorporating a Health and Safety Management system such as ISO 45001, or in to our day-to-day work. It enables you to identify the key actions required in each aspect of the PDCA cycle
This is shown in the diagram below:

Plan-Do-Check-Act management model

What is required at each stage of PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT?

We’ll have a look at the theory at each stage and then see how to use the principles in practice by introducing a new piece of equipment.

PLAN

This stage covers two key issues: planning for implementation and policy. It is all about the P’s – PLANNING and POLICY.

Planning for implementation means identifying where we are now and then identifying where we want to be.

For example, we could be looking at introducing a new piece of equipment into our workplace. So what should we be considering at this stage?

  • How are we going to control the risks associated with this equipment?
  • What is the most suitable equipment from a safety perspective?
  • What emergency procedures need to be put in place?
  • What are the training requirements?
  • Is any personal protective equipment required?

During this stage we should also make sure that we are meeting the requirements of our organisation’s Health and Safety Policy.

DO

The do stage looks at three key areas:

  1. Profiling the health and safety risks
  2. Organising
  3. Implementing your plans

So in reality what does this mean? 

  1. Identifying the risks through suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
  2. Organising by identifying roles and responsibilities, communication procedures and ensuring competent personnel are in place.
  3. Implementation of the plan – ensuring risks are adequately controlled; correct maintenance procedures are in place and providing information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure people are competent and that procedures are followed.

So in our example of a new piece of equipment we need to do a suitable risk assessment that identifies the risks and controls required to minimise the risk to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. Identify roles and responsibilities for the use of the equipment. Ensuring all information and instruction on the use (daily, controls and maintenance) are provided so that all workers are competent in using the equipment as well as the safety procedures.

CHECK

This is an important stage. Once we have implemented our plan we need to ensure that it is working effectively. To achieve this we need to MEASURE PERFORMANCE. Good quality performance monitoring will help us to identify problems, understand why the problems arose, and understand what changes are necessary to resolve the issues.

How do we do this?

There are numerous ways that we can measure our performance. So for example, with our new piece of equipment we could introduce the following monitoring procedures:

  • Inspection of the plant and equipment carried out on a regular or scheduled basis
  • Job observations to check the effective operation of workplace precautions
  • Health surveillance, for example, audiometry tests for signs of hearing loss (if the equipment introduced is noisy)
  • Environmental monitoring, for example, measuring noise or dust levels

What we are doing must meet the levels we expect them to.
So what if it is not? Well we Act on our findings!

ACT

This is where we evaluate our health and safety performance to determine whether or not the essential principles of our plan and policy are being implemented correctly or whether there are improvements that can be made.

With our new piece of equipment, if we identify issues from our performance measurements in the check stage we will act upon them and remedy them. For example, after noise monitoring, should the machinery have noise levels above the legal requirements we would look at ways of addressing this. We then look at how we go about doing this; going through the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle again.

The PDCA cycle is the basis of how we go about managing Health and Safety on not only a large scale but also it can be incorporated in to our day-to-day management of it.

Football analogy of PDCA Plan-do-check-act compared to managing a football game

I will use another analogy that I commonly with my students when teaching PDCA in its basic terms. If you think of a football match and you are the manager. What thought processes do you go through before, during and after a match?

PLAN

Prior to the match, you plan your team to beat the opposition. So what weaknesses do you have that need to be addressed to achieve this. What do you need to do to achieve your aim?

DO

Who has what role and responsibilities? Provide the players with information, instruction, training and supervision; implement your plan on the pitch.

CHECK

During the match, we check that our plan is working by observing the match.

ACT

Change personnel and procedures as required if we identify any issues during our observations.
We would also use our findings from this match to prepare to play the team again by going through the continuous cycle of PDCA.

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog has helped you to understand the basics of PDCA and how it can be used on a day-to-day basis when we look at managing health and safety. When looking at PDCA on a larger scale, such as a whole management system, it can be a bit more complicated but the basics of it are the same. PLAN what you want to do; DO it; CHECK its meeting your plan; ACT upon it if it is not or improvements can be made. Remember this is a continuous cycle.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle is covered in detail in the NEBOSH General Certificate. Find out more about this course.

Download your NEBOSH NGC Course Information Pack

Tags: Health & Safety, NEBOSH General Certificate

Dafydd Jenkins MSc, BSc (Hons), FdSc, GradIOSH, SIIRSM

Dafydd is a Health and Safety consultant with significant expertise in environmental and occupational hygiene. He has completed over 10 years of duty with the Royal Air Force where he reported on environmental, health and safety, occupational hygiene and public health matters affecting the Air Station. He trains on IOSH and NEBOSH courses; he has a background in occupational hygiene, and food hygiene and has worked in diverse sectors including engineering, retail and leisure.