Hazard identification is a fundamental part of an organization’s health and safety program management. It is included in all of the major occupational health and safety (OHS) management systems processes; to name a few:
- The OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines
- The OSHA Voluntary Protection Program Guidelines
- ANSI Z10 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
- OHSAS 18000 series
Identifying and correcting health and safety hazards has many benefits including:
- Reduced costs (lost productivity, insurance, legal, re-training)
- Reduced risk
- Reduced liability
- Improved standing among customers, investors and the community
- Increased productivity (improved employee health and morale
OHS audits should be a routine periodic activity and are best done by a team. The team can consist of:
- In-house personnel (self-audits)
- A combination of in-house and organization personnel from another site
- Outside expertise coupled with in-house personnel (third party audits)
Ideally, the team make-up should include OHS experts, management, and key line operators. Team knowledge of operations and work practices is of utmost importance in identifying and correcting hazards.
OHS audits may aim for various goals.
An audit may be strictly compliance oriented in which case ensuring that facilities and procedures meet standards required by regulation is the primary goal. An audit may include best practice findings and recommendations in addition to compliance issues, because compliance alone implies a minimal level of risk management. An audit may include an assessment of in-depth management systems that addresses the very structure of the health and safety program including reporting structures, accountability, measurement, communications and training, employee involvement, and management commitment (management systems audit).
Audit findings should be assigned a priority and acted upon expeditiously. Audit findings should be closely tracked until closure. It is important to correct known hazards promptly to prevent injury and lessen liability.
OSHA does not routinely request employer initiated audit results as part of their inspection process; however, there is a chance that OSHA may request or subpoena a portion or all of an audit report. Because of this, audit reports are often submitted under the protection of counsel.