Audits are an essential part of almost every project and they normally fall under the “Perform Quality Assurance” process. Safety is not any different than any other project area that requires regular auditing, in fact, safety comes first especially on construction projects.
Table of Contents
- Consequences of Bad Safety Management
- The Importance of HSE Audits
- Recurring Safety Issues
However, the degree of formality varies depending on the type and size of the project and most importantly the industry. For example, a software development project would normally require very brief safety regulations and protocols to be in place, while for a large construction project, safety is a major focus and in large organizations, there is usually a separate department for every project specialized in managing HSE on site.
People often take Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE) issues lightly as they might not be aware of the consequences of bad safety management. Poor HSE practices in construction projects will often result in long-term adverse effects that could be detrimental to the organization. Some of those effects are, but not limited to:
- Customer Dissatisfaction
- Delays in Schedule
- Long Term Disabilities
- Low Morale
- Decreased Quality
- Increased Cost
- Loss of Future Business
- Unsound HSE Record
That being said, safety should not be taken lightly and be planned for in detail during the planning phase by creating an HSE Plan and including it within the Project Management Plan. Large organizations normally have readily available safety plans, policies, and regulations included within their Organizational Process Assets but those in most cases are very generic and should be tailored to suit the project's needs, type, complexity, client requirements, country regulations, and so on.
On another important note, during risk planning, HSE risks are thoroughly evaluated and their estimated impact is added to the contingency and management reserves depending on whether it is a known-unknown or unknown-unknown risk.
In light of the abovementioned, HSE Audits play a pivotal role in ensuring all safety protocols are followed, and the HSE Management plan is both effective and efficient. In general terms, an Audit is a structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability of the total H&S management system and drawing up plans for corrective action. Auditing examines each stage in the H&S management system by measuring compliance with the controls the organization has developed, with the ultimate aim of assessing their effectiveness and their validity for the future.
Below are some of the most common types of HSE Audits:
- Health & Safety Plan Audit: to review the set plan at the end of the year. It consists of two parts: The first is intended to provide a simple overview of progress in terms of time. The second is intended to expand on the information provided in the first part.
- Walk Around Audit: to determine whether the health and safety policies of the company are being properly implemented and to identify areas of improvement to enhance the effectiveness of the HSE Policies.
- Health & Safety Management Audit: to assess if the company’s system is adequate such as procedures, policies, defined roles and responsibilities.
- Project Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE) Audit: is a method for monitoring and controlling the implementation of HSE activities and procedures throughout the life of the project. It comprises of two activities: Formal Audits and Regular / Ad-Hoc Inspections.
- Process Safety Audit: Self-evaluation audit which aims at gathering all relevant documentation covering process safety management requirements at a specific facility to determine the program's implementation and effectiveness by following up on their application to one or more selected processes.
- Product Safety Audit: : is important in the product design and development stages. It is to ensure that the company had adequately protected the user of a product from hazards that it did not know existed.
Chart I – Safety Audit Chart
Depending on the requirements and nature of the project, these audits could be combined, done in parallel or separately. On construction projects, the most commonly implemented type of audit is the “Walk Around Audit” where construction personnel on-site are directly involved.
From past experience in projects, there are some recurring safety issues that are revealed during a regular construction job site safety audit. Some of those common issues are, but not limited to:
- Unprotected Trenching / Excavation: There is a major hazard associated with trenching or excavation is known as “Collapse Hazard”. The greater the depth of the trench, the greater is the risk of trenches walls falling in.
Work must only proceed where collapse protection is in place and in many cases, you will be required to obtain a deep excavation permit. Collapse Protection could be achieved by: Proper Sloping or Shoring. Moreover, Green net will also prevent workers from any loose material falling down.
- Unsafe Working Platforms: Railings, to prevent falls, must-have mid and top rails in place. Under certain conditions, chains can be used in addition to Toe Boards to prevent falling objects.
- Damaged Ladders: Damaged ladders or ladder sections must be tagged “Do Not Use” until removed from the job site and destroyed.
- No Defined Access: Defined access should be maintained on-site to prevent people from using shortcuts and thus hurting themselves.
- Faulty Rigging Gears: Rigging Gears must be taken out of service when heavily damaged or when wear detectors are visible.
- No Proper PPE: Personal Protective Equipment like Safety Shoes, Helmets, Vests, and others are meant to protect people from injuries so wearing them on-site at all times is a must.
In conclusion, Safety audits should be taken seriously as they help in increasing the effectiveness of the HSE policies and implementation on site. With proper implementation of policies and hazard identification on a timely basis, many issues can be taken care of right, keeping business interruption to a minimum and minimizing accidents and injuries.
The society of Accredited Safety Auditors Limited: What are safety audit?
Occupational Safety & Health Administration: WORKER SAFETY SERIES