Industrial history is strewn with events which have been deemed as accidents, tragedies and in some cases even catastrophes. And for each of such events in making around the world, countless affected lives, thwarted operations with anger and misery became moot remainders.
In accordance to the differing health and safety laws and their enforcement across the world, stipulated punishments are meted and fines are paid out, in a way to attach significance by adding a monetary value to the act of failure. The relatively true cost of failure though that the world spends is nearly 3 trillion dollars based on disability adjusted life years on occupational injuries and health related issues each year, according to the ILO and WHO.
As we climb down the ladder to look at domain specific issues, then the health and safety risks start becoming more and more apparent, also manageable. This is exactly where a detailed health and safety program should exist and be enforced through the plant or facility. It has been universal knowledge for some time now that a comprehensive health and safety policy, when observed and practiced correctly can ensure higher productivity through smoother operations.
But let us examine these aspects granularly: ‘observed, practiced and correctly’ in context of health and safety program.
Is there an assured method or way to see whether these three elements within the context are actually performing?
A simple answer is a health and safety audit program.
Audit programs are the most efficient way to evaluate whether any crucial health and safety program is being implemented and followed. Audit exercise involves ‘evidence gathering’ from the actual conditions on ground and evaluating them against the prescribed standards. Health and safety audit programs should effectively cover all the aspects of the operations, workplace and other such facilities associated with the organisation.
A quality health and safety audit program would offer insights on not only the aspects which are being neglected and that are performing poorly but at the end of the exercise, it would yield an overall baseline of the current state of health and safety program.
Such insights are necessary for any organisation or workplace to understand what the shortcomings are and in some cases even ‘failings’ of their health and safety program.
The other aspect of health and safety audit program is that you can have different types of them based on how your organisation operates. For example, internal health and safety audit can become like a learning and improvement exercise for an organisation to help them setup nicely for an external audit that is more towards an accredited compliance. Sometimes, due to intensive processes and shared inter domain work expertise (like in chemical industry), a sort of sandwich, second party audit for health and safety comes into notice. However, the gist of it remains that the health and safety program, its compliance and the actual on-ground scenario are delivered in great detail through the audit.
A routine health and safety audit program can therefore shine light on processes that might be performing poorly with respect to workers health and safety while also highlighting the ones that are performing well. This ensures an overall demonstrated picture and performance of health and safety.