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Health and Safety Audits – manage safety objectively
Posted by David Cant on November 16, 2009
2 Comments

To manage safety objectively, Line Managers need arrangements to enable them to monitor implementation of systems against the defined standards.

Often, managers assume that because the written procedures are in place and staff are trained to use them compliance is automatic – this has been proven to be a dangerously erroneous assumption in many cases, for example Kings Cross, Piper Alpha, Clapham Junction, the Herald of Free Enterprise, etc. There is always the danger of the ‘short-cut’ or ‘custom and practice’ being established and very often this is only identified in public enquiries following serious accidents rather than by routine monitoring before the accident occurs.

To manage any aspect of an organisation’s activity the manager must have targets and regular feedback of information on performance. Safety management is no exception, the performance feedback comes from monitoring and incident/accident information.

There are varying levels of monitoring activities, and companies adopting best practice in safety management will have in-house procedures for all of the following:

Health and Safety Audit

Health and Safety Audit is the part of a safety management system which subjects each area of company activity to a systematic critical examination. Each component of the total system is included: management policy, features of the process and design, operating procedures, emergency procedures, training, etc. The aim is to disclose the strengths and weaknesses and the main areas of vulnerability and risk, with the objective of minimising loss through accident and/or plant damage.

The outcome of the audit will be a report, followed by an action plan agreed with local management. The implementation of the action plan must be monitored. A Safety Audit will be carried out by a team of people who are competent and with a satisfactory degree of independence from the plant or unit under audit.
The frequency of the audit will be dependent on management policy.

For example, some companies may audit on an annual basis and use a scoring system to monitor improvements. Others may consider that a full safety audit is only necessary at five yearly intervals. The frequency of future audits is decided by weighing the benefits gained against the more frequent checks of compliance offered by an inspection program following the initial audit.

Some companies prefer to carry out integrated audits, which include not only safety but also environment, quality and other business improvement processes. These audits can only be conducted using the integrated approach when the management systems have already been integrated.
All audits should be pre-planned and a documented checklist of the audit content prepared.

Health and Safety Surveys

These are an in-depth critical examination of one particular aspect of a company activity. These in-depth surveys will be used in response to a concern over safety or the adequacy of a particular activity and may be initiated as the result of an incident, or following analysis of the results of an audit. The survey can be carried out by one or more appropriately qualified persons who will produce a report and action plan with local management. As in the case of audits, follow-up in terms of monitoring is essential.

Health and Safety Inspections

Good safety management demands a structured system of inspections, carried out by different levels of supervisory and managerial staff.

Front Line Supervisors’ Inspections:

The Front Line Supervisor, because of his detailed knowledge of the work and his position as the manager closest to the workforce is a key person in any Safety Management programme. It is a part of the supervisor’s responsibilities to be constantly aware of the safe working in his area of responsibility and he should, as an integral part of his duties, correct any unsafe acts or conditions on a daily basis. In addition, it is good safety management practice for a supervisor to allocate a proportion of his working time to carrying out safety inspections.

These inspections should be pre-planned and an inspection checklist produced, covering all tasks and areas under his responsibility, in turn, and can include “hardware”, i.e. machinery or conditions inspections and “software”, i.e. procedural compliance inspections.

Any of the workforce found to be in breach of the safety requirements should be counselled and advised or retrained as required. Persistent transgressors should be disciplined. Where these breaches are caused by non-existent, inadequate, or out-of-date information, this must be reviewed and updated.

Line Management Inspections:

A vital element of Safety Management is for the Line Manager to be seen to be actively involved and committed to safe working. He must take time to get into the workplace, personally check that the safety requirements are being implemented and communicate with his staff on the job regarding their safety concerns.

“It is the Line Manager’s attitude towards safety which will largely determine the attitude of his workforce”

These Line Management Inspections should be planned and documented and the outcome communicated to the workforce and action taken to rectify inadequacies.

Senior Management Inspections:

The Health and Safety Policy Statement will be issued by the managing director of the organisation, who must demonstrate his commitment to the safety policy by personal involvement and communications with the workforce. Senior management safety inspections are an ideal vehicle for demonstrating commitment between workforce and senior managers.

Incident/Accident Investigation

In any activity in life human beings learn from past mistakes. The quality of the Incident/Accident investigation system is very important to aid continued improvement in safety performance and ensure there is no recurrence of the incident. The incident/accident investigation should contain a number of elements:

  • All accidents/incidents should be communicated and all of them with potential to cause personal injury or property damage should be investigated.
  • All conditions that could cause injuries or damages should be investigated.
  • The outcome of any incident/accident investigation should be communicated to everyone in the organisation.
  • Recommendations from incident/accident investigations should be implemented as quickly as possible.
  • Investigators should be trained and competent.
  • Incident/Accident investigation recommendations should be fed back into improving procedures and training where necessary.

Accidents are not caused simply by human error. There will always be a number of fundamental or root causes.

Investigations should seek these out and not stop at the superficial. For example, an accident apparently caused by a failure to observe working procedures might have more fundamental causes such as: inadequate training; impractical procedures; excessive production pressures; or a working group culture of ignoring formal methods.

Safety monitoring and Incident/Accident Investigation are vital constituents of good practice in safety management.

For a Health and Safety Audit for your business get in touch today

About 

David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Management

2 Comments

  1. October 29, 2010 at 3:28 am

    It is just as important to practise safety as it is to manage your health. If you are a reclase person you are putting yourself in more danger than need be.

  2. November 15, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Of course safety is extremely important. However, it is human nature to cut corners and so if you don’t hold people accountable for their actions, don’t expect compliance. This is why health and safety audits are necessary, however unpleasant they may be for the workforce.

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