Continuous Improvement

Last updated: October 21, 2018

What Does Continuous Improvement Mean?

Continuous improvement (CI), also called continual improvement, refers to an ongoing effort to improve a process, service, or product.

Modern approaches to occupational health and safety (OHS) operate under a continuous improvement paradigm wherein workplace safety conditions are continuously evaluated for opportunities to improve safety.

Safeopedia Explains Continuous Improvement

Governmental OHS organizations, international standards agencies, relevant professional organizations, and the corporations that create the technologies used in safety systems all engage in continuous improvement as part of their approach to occupational safety. While not all workplaces necessarily engage in CI, the principle has seen increased standardization both internationally and as a part of national OHS guidelines. As part of this increased standardization, CI practices may be required for compliance with OHS regulations in certain industries and jurisdictions.

The evaluation of workplace health and safety practices involves ensuring that current practices continue to comply with regulatory and professional standards. As such, continuous improvement recommendations for health and safety management are tied to the continuous refinement of standards by occupational health and safety experts in government and industry.

Continuous improvement processes are commonly thought of as part of a feedback loop. A CI loop can be described as follows: A safety process is planned, designed, and implemented. The effectiveness of that safety process is then evaluated, and the evaluation is used to find areas for improvement. Finally, plans for improving the process are designed and the improvements are implemented. The continuous improvement loop then restarts as the improved system is evaluated to find new opportunities for improvement.

Continuous improvement is defined as a requirement of both the ISO 9000 quality standards and the ISO 14000 environmental protection standards. While they are not explicitly occupational safety standards, these standards are recognized by various authoritative bodies as describing the basic process used for CI in the workplace. The European Union safety regulatory framework draws upon ISO 9000 standards to define the role of CI in safety management systems, such as those used in the EU’s railway industry. Additionally, OSHA’s recommended practices for safety and health programs are explicitly premised on the central role of continuous improvement to improve safety practices.



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