Safety Audit to Identify Potential Hazards in Industrial Operations

The audit normally refers to checking of financial status of the company. Though the word ‘Audit’ has traditionally been associated with financial accounting procedures, since 80’s it has come into common usage in India in the field of industrial safety, industrial health, and environmental health and so on. The term ‘Safety Audit’ is commonly found within the safety jargon.  However, its full meaning, as well as the practical implications, of the term are not fully appreciated.

It is now recognised that accidents arising from unsuspected risks can result not only in injuries to employees and damage to plant and machinery, but also can have far reaching effects on the commercial viability of a company.  Almost always, as an aftermath of such accidents, resources of manpower and money are made available to determine causes and implement remedial action to prevent a recurrence.  It may be pointed out here that if the same resources were utilised for the purpose of identifying the potential risks and eliminating them before incidents occur, reliability and profitability of the company would be increased. Everyone who is, in a way concerned with occupational safety and health would agree that it is essential to perform ‘Safety Audits’ of a workplace in order to detect any dangers which might be present there.

Safety Audits can be carried out for determining the overall status of safety, health, and environment of an organisation.  It can also be conducted for determining the performance of a specific activity, for example: Preventive Maintenance (engineering department), Laboratory Inspection and Testing (product quality), Environment Audit (gaseous, liquid, and solid), Energy Audit (electrical, fuel), Fire Safety Audit, Building Safety Audit, Hospital Safety Audit, etc.

Safety Audit is a systematic critical examination of an industrial operation in its entirety to identify potential hazards and levels of risk.  In other words, it is a study aimed to detect any dangers which might be present in an industrial operation.  It subjects each area of a company activity to a systematic critical examination with the object of minimising loss.  It aims to disclose the strengths and the weaknesses, the main areas of vulnerability or risk. It is a practical procedure whereby a workplace and the processes carried on therein, are examined with a view to ascertain what hazard to health and safety may be in existence.  It is a useful technique to test the effectiveness of a company’s safety programme. Hence, ‘Safety Audit’ is a form of risk analysis and evaluation in which a systematic investigation is carried out in order to determine the extent to which the conditions are present that provide for the development and implementation of an effective and efficient safety policy.

We must have a method, which will give a reasonable indication of how well a company’s safety programme is working, in all its aspects, i.e., how hazards are being recognised and controlled, how unsafe acts are being eliminated and how accidents are being avoided.  It may be reminded here that injury frequency, cost of accidents, loss due to fire and explosions, number and types of injuries, etc. are not always related to the quality of an employer’s safety effort.  What is needed, therefore, is a method, which will give a reasonable indication of how well a company’s safety programme is working in all its aspects and how potential accidents are being avoided without using only failures as a yardstick.