A Safety Management System requires that a policy is set, and an organization responsible for implementing the policy. The implementation of the plans and procedures will not succeed if there are substandard regimes for Auditing and Inspections. Knowledge and close familiarity of these two areas is of utmost importance.
Audits assess system functionality whilst the area of Site Inspections assess conditions and practices within a plant or organisation. The adequacy of a health and safety management system is judged by making a comparison between what is found against a relevant ‘standard’ or benchmark. If there are no clear standards, the assessment process will be unreliable. Legal standards, safety guidance and applicable industry standards should be used to inform audit judgments. To do all this requires that an auditor has knowledge, ability, a sense of curiosity and an urge to help in improving the systems and the practices.
Far too many incident investigations have identified the lack on the one hand of good audit reports and on the other the failure of management to take action on the ineffectiveness of systems identified. The BP Texas City Refinery investigating report by the CSB included the recommendation that “BP should establish and implement an effective system to audit process safety performance at its U.S. refineries.”
Legislation on High Hazard plants both in the United States and in Europe (Process Safety Management CFR 1910.119 and Seveso III) demand that audits have to be undertaken by qualified and competent teams. Inspections give the systems of safety the necessary roots to grow into strong and reliable barriers to failures.
The investigation of the Buncefield incident recommended that “At major hazard sites, monitoring of improvement in process safety and environmental protection is most effective in organisations where it is integral to the top-level management of facilities, and in regulatory intervention programmes (e.g. in safety report assessment).”
Soft factors of culture and behaviour are also of significance. The soft factors create the difference as to whether systems and procedures are merely complied with or are followed because safety is a value with the organisation. The CSB investigation report of Texas City Refinery states: “BP should involve the relevant stakeholders to develop a positive, trusting, and open process safety culture within each U.S. refinery.”
To discover more on the importance of Safety Audits & Site Inspections, we urge you to join this PetroKnowledge training course in Dubai to both increase your knowledge and share your experiences and challenges with other delegates attending from international organizations.