From HQSE To QESTH. Maybe A Change For The Better.

We all like to kid about acronym soup, and it is pretty difficult to keep up with all the new ones. I remember that as a young engineer I was always hesitant to ask in public, because I was afraid that asking the question would prove my ignorance.

Somewhere in my career I crossed that bar and now when somebody uses an acronym that I don’t know (well, at my age, it generally is an acronym I can’t remember), I no longer worry about admitting my ignorance and simply ask what it means. Occasionally I even emerge victoriously without trying when the acronym dropper cannot tell me what it means.

Martin & Ottaway has been deeply involved in a specific acronym progression that has roiled the maritime industry for a while now. It began in the 1990’s with QMS, it begat TQM, then it begat ISM, which begat SMS, which begat STCW, which begat ISPS, which begat ECP and dozens of derivative acronym offshoots. And to deal with all of it, the industry developed the corporate HQSE department and Martin & Ottaway functions as an HQSE consultant. HQSE stands for Health, Quality, Safety and Environmental. At first glance, this acronym is reasonably inclusive of the systems that a well run shipping company needs to have in place to satisfy the demands that are not directly related to the company’s income producing model. We like to call them “for the public” systems, because they allow a company to function as a responsible world citizen (and more importantly, based on our experience, they actually add to the corporate bottom line).

But the acronym is not complete and misses a number of important concepts.

I was struggling with this when writing a paper about recent HQSE system issues that I will be presenting at the SNAME annual meeting on October 26. That paper shows that training systems need to be an integral component of HQSE systems. This led me to wonder about how to introduce the “T” for training into HQSE.

Also what the paper emphasizes is that these systems are moving systems; they aim to achieve an ever improving standard of HQSE and T through feedback and refinement. So I started to play with various combinations of the letters and came up with QESTH. Yes, I am sorry, I added to the alphabet soup, but look on the bright side; it is pronounceable as “quest” (sort of), and that word expresses what we are trying to do. We are all on a quest to get QESTH right!

And the acronym even covers the latest quests in the QESTH department if it is defined as follows: QESTH = Quality, Environmental (and Ethics and Emergency), Safety (and Security), Training (and system support Technologies) and Health.

Or, in other words: QESTH systems are “for the public corporate systems.”

I particularly like that QESTH is pronounceable, which actually makes it a true acronym since unpronounceable abbreviations apparently are initialisms. I could never think of a single word for HQSE, and the initials always made me think of a weird hose (magic pipe?). Even worse, is it “a” HQSE department or “an” HQSE department?

While the pronunciation for ISPS, “Is Puss,” has always bothered me, true acronyms just work so much better. NASA, RADAR, LASER, let’s face it; not all acronyms are bad. So why not give QESTH a chance?