Drawing the Line Between Safety and Quality

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Clause 6.4 requires an organization to determine and manage the work environment needed to achieve conformity to product requirements. Where do we draw the line between work environment requirements and health and safety (OHSA) requirements? Are there cases where a safety problem could be identified as a nonconformity?

ISO 9004:2000 includes safety as a consideration for the work environment. However, we audit to the actual requirements expressed in ISO 9001:2000, as well as, customer, organization, and regulatory requirements for the quality management system and product.

If the quality management system includes safety requirements, they are subject to audit. For example, an instruction for operating a fork lift included a step to verify a fire extinguisher was onboard. The checklist had been completed indicating the presence of an extinguisher, but it was actually missing. I wrote this situation as a nonconformity.

However, on another audit, I noticed a fire extinguisher missing from its marked spot on a wall. I merely pointed out its absence to the area manager and continued auditing. I was there to audit the quality management system, not their health and safety system.