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Quality Management Vs Compliance. What’s the difference?

Editorial Staff

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Quality management and compliance are two terms that are often used interchangeably. But while they may seem similar, there is a difference, and understanding the difference is key to understanding your legal obligations and how they impact your business.

What do these two terms actually mean?

Let’s begin by looking at some basic definitions in order to gain a better understanding of the difference between the two. 

What is Quality Management?

Quality Management is the process of implementing and maintaining a system to direct and control an organisation with the purpose of delivering products and services that consistently meet customer requirements. Quality Management is about making sure your brand is as good as it can be, and that you’re constantly improving it.

It is a philosophy of trying to think about the customer and the product or service that you are offering to them. It’s also about trying to figure out what the customer wants, what they need, and what they are asking for hence improving the customer experience, reducing customer complaints, increasing customer loyalty.

What is Compliance?

Compliance on the other hand is the process of ensuring that your brand meets specific standards especially as it relates to meeting all industry regulations. Compliance is about making sure you’re doing things by the book – because it is about meeting the minimum requirements set by the government or quality standards. 

In Australia, there are laws, regulations and guidelines like the WHS Act and WHS Regulations which seek to ensure businesses create a safe workplace for their workers and other users. These obligations businesses are expected to meet are known as compliance. 

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) makes it the responsibility of businesses to provide and maintain a safe workplace. It also requires businesses to ensure that they provide safe systems of work, safe places of work, safe plant and machinery, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) etc.

How does Quality Management differ from Compliance? 

Compliance management aims to hold the employer or organization accountable for dereliction of its responsibilities. Quality management, on the face of it does have some elements of compliance, as they are both working towards a goal. 

In fact, Quality Management is a means to an end – compliance. It’s a proactive approach to identifying and eliminating or reducing risks associated with a product or service before it becomes a problem.

A quality management system is an integral part of a business’s overall compliance management system and comprises the organizational structures, policies, procedures, processes, and resources for managing quality. It also encompasses the organizational culture necessary to support the WHS management system. A quality management system aims to ensure that quality is built into a product or service at every stage in its life cycle which ultimately works towards achieving compliance.

Quality Management Vs Compliance. Do you need to do both?

In Australia, compliance is mandatory for every business. As a business, you are legally required to meet WHS compliance or face penalties. Unlike compliance, quality management is not explicitly required by law but it is crucial business practice that would make compliance achievable and your business a success. From this explanation you will agree they work hand in hand. And a good compliance management system ensures you get the best of both worlds.

Final thoughts – Quality Management Vs Compliance 

Compliance is about doing business the way you’re supposed to, whereas quality management is about doing business the way your customers expect you to. This is a very subtle distinction but they  both work together to ensure a safe and healthy workers and workplace.

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