OSH Audits and enhancing Compliance in Workplace Safety
Safety audits have the potential to identify and correct oversights that could lead to costly and tragic workplace injuries or fatalities.
How safe is your workplace? Have you complied with all regulatory requirements and standards? Do your employees understand their responsibilities and entitlements when it comes to workplace safety.
Conducting a workplace safety audit is the most comprehensive way for a company to gauge the efficiency, effectiveness and legality of its total health and safety management system.
In addition to ensuring that a business remains in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 2007 and other legislation, safety audits have the potential to identify and correct oversights that could, if left unchecked, lead to costly and tragic workplace injuries or fatalities. If successful in uncovering weaknesses in an employer's safety programs or practices, audits can also prove to be important tools in designing a new safety plan.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 2007 requires every occupier of a workplace to cause a thorough safety and health audit of his workplace to be carried out at least once in every period of twelve months by a safety and health advisor. The safety and health adviser is required to issue a report of such an audit containing the prescribed particulars to the occupier on payment of a prescribed fee and shall send a copy of the report to the Director.
The main benefit of regularly conducting safety audits in the workplace is that it assists in the continuous improvement of the organization's health and safety procedures.
Safety audits can also:
- Identify risks in the workplace, as well as the levels of those risk
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in safety processes and procedures
- Reveal where and how to make recommend improvements
- Ensure that adequate resources are available to manage workplace health and safety, and that those resources are being used efficiently and effectively
- Assess whether safety processes and procedures are legally compliant
- Eliminate unsafe practices and hazards
Exhaustive records are a requirement and objective of safety audits. A safety audit team needs to consult all incident reports available for the section which they are auditing to assess where potential problem areas are most likely to exist. Competent incident reports help auditors better apply selective scrutiny to known problem areas.
After inspecting all documents, written programs, procedures, work practices and equipment, the safety audit teams sift through the collected material to put together a concise report that details all areas of the program. All safety audit comments, recommendations and corrective actions consider whether the audited program covers all regulatory and best industry practice requirements, whether those requirements are being met and whether there is documented proof of compliance.
Conducting only one workplace safety audit per year can have the unintended consequence of making safety and compliance seem like a recurring goal that must be achieved once annually, rather than a constant mandate. It is likely that a "ramping up" atmosphere may be created by managers and supervisors as the date of an annual audit approaches to ensure compliance ahead of the audit. This could in effect discourage employees from developing a sense of urgency the rest of the year, leading to relaxed standards. Scheduling various specific safety audits throughout the year is recommended leaving the final month in the year for the comprehensive workplace safety audit.
A safety audit can only be as good as the professionals conducting it, which is why it pays to entrust the process to those with the necessary knowledge and experience. In Kenya, only Safety and health advisers approved by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS) are authorized to carry out the OSH audit. The list of registered advisers is available on the DOSHS website.