A safety audit is a general term used to describe an activity where a facility gathers information about one or more aspects of the workplace in order to evaluate the risk levels for health or safety issues. During this audit one or more people will gather data related to the efficiency, reliability, and effectiveness of their health and safety systems. When done properly, a safety audit will help determine if a company\'s day to day activities are in conformity with their safety efforts. This means a safety audit is typically only done after a safety plan for the facility is already in place. A safety audit can, however, be used as part of the process in the creation of a full safety plan for a facility. Why Are Safety Audits Done? Safety audits are performed for a variety of reasons. Each company will have their own specific list of reasons for completing a safety audit.
The following are just a few of the most common reasons: Legislative Requirements - There are many local, state, and federal laws in place that require facilities meet certain safety standards. A safety audit can help ensure those standards are met. Safety Concern - Keeping employees and the workplace safe is ethically very important. Injuries - If someone has been injured in a specific area of the workplace, it is often necessary to perform a safety audit of that area to determine whether the injury was a one-time occurrence or there is a risk of it happening to someone else. Bottom Line - While safety improvement in the workplace is often looked at as expenditure, in the long run it can positively improve a company\'s bottom line. Safety Culture - Employers that want to promote a safety-focused culture need to set the tone by engaging in safety-related activities such as a safety audit.
Performing a Safety Audit. When planning a safety audit, it is important to follow a set process. Start by forming a safety audit team or teams. Some companies choose to hire outside consultants to perform the audit, which can be very effective. If using existing employees, make teams that include 3-5 people and always ensure employees do not inspect their own work environment. Those on the safety audit teams should be trained on the current safety standards so they know what to look for. In addition, knowledge of laws, OSHA regulations, and any other standards that may apply can help them identify potential safety concerns. When ready, the safety audit teams need to look at any incident reports for the area they are auditing. These reports can give key insight into where potential problem areas exist. They can then go to the physical location of the area being audited and watch work being done. They can ask questions of the employees in that work in the area and get as much information as possible.\nFinally, teams should take all the information and analyze it for potential safety concerns. Some safety issues will be quite obvious, but others may be hidden in the data. Once the audit is completed, either the same audit team or another team should begin making plans for what can be changed in the facility to improve safety based on the information that was gathered during the audit.
Oil and Gas Industry
Safety and health management is one of the vital constituents of Oil and Gas industry activities because most of the operational conditions, chemicals and end products (hydrocarbons and other compounds) associated with Oil and Gas production are well-known to pose serious safety and health threats to the workers.
Figure 1- Segments of Oil and Gas industry
On 25 August 2012, an explosion caused by the ignition of a leaking gas at the Amuay oil refinery, which is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, killed 48 people; primarily National Guard troops stationed at the plant, and injured 151 others. The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion refers to the April 20, 2010 explosion and subsequent fire on the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) killed 11 workers and injured 16 others2. The explosion caused the Deepwater Horizon to burn and sink, resulting in a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world, and the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history2.
According to the report developed by the NORA Oil and Gas Extraction Council; In the US, during 2003-2008, 648 oil and gas extraction workers were fatally injured on the job, resulting in an occupational fatality rate of 29.1 deaths per 100,000 workers – eight times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers. Nearly half of all fatal events in the Oil and Gas extraction industry resulted from highway crashes (29%) and workers struck by objects and equipment (20%)3. The above alarming incident data clearly emphasizes the need for an effective occupational safety and health management system that integrates safety and health concerns into a daily routine.
People working in Oil and Gas industry are exposed to various risk factors. Hence continuous monitoring of their working conditions and well-being is essential. Health protocols and periodic medical checkup should be pre-defined and done for every worker depending on the job and work area type to identify possible deviations from the normal health and to confirm that necessary counteractive actions are taken in advance. This paper outlines the key safety and health hazards associated with the upstream, midstream and downstream segments of Oil and Gas industry, including the significance, features, components and benefits of an effective Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OSHMS) for the industry.
Hazards Related to Oil and Gas Industry
Hazards in Oil and Gas industry can be divided into two broad categories: Safety and Injury Hazards Health and Illnesses Hazards\n3.1 Safety and Injury Hazards Workers in Oil and Gas industry are generally susceptible to the following safety and injury hazards.
Figure 2 - Safety and Injury Hazards
Health and Illnesses Hazards
Workers in Oil and Gas industry are generally susceptible to following agents which lead to various health and Illnesses hazards: chemical hazards (toxic, corrosive, carcinogens, asphyxiates, irritant and sensitizing substances); physical hazards (noise, vibration, radiations, extreme temperature); biological hazards (virus, parasites, bacteria); ergonomic hazards (manual handling activities, repetitive motions, awkward postures); and psychosocial hazards (overwork, odd working hours, isolated sites, violence).
Figure 3 - The table identifies the potential health effects from key processes in Oil and Gas industry:\n4. Managing Occupational Safety and Health Risks The aim of occupational safety and health risk management is to identify and assess safety and health hazards existing at the workplace and to define appropriate control and retrieval steps. Business processes in Oil and Gas industry are very complex. Hence it is essential that a systematized approach should be used for managing occupational safety and health hazards. Its solution model can be based on the PDCA Cycle.
Figure 4 - PDCA Cycle
Process As stated earlier, risk management is crucial for preventing work related injury and illness. It includes:
- Identifying the risks
- Evaluating and prioritizing the risks
- Implementing preventive/protective measures to control the risk
- There are a number of circumstances in the Oil and Gas industry where a proper risk management process is essential.
• Job safety analysis: It is a process of systematically evaluating certain jobs, tasks, processes or procedures and eliminating or reducing the risks or hazards to As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) in order to protect workers from injury or illness6
Workplace inspections and audits
Change management - identification of new hazards, introduction of new equipment/process, or regulatory needs
Figure 5 - Generally Risk
Management Process in the Oil and Gas Industry Involves the Following Key Steps:
Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OSHMS) The insinuation of implementing an occupational Safety and Health Management System at all workplaces came into limelight, when ‘Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health: Conclusions’ were adopted by the ‘International Labour Conference’ at its 91st session, 2003. The Strategy advocates the application of a systems approach to the management of national OSH systems7. Also, Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (ILO-OSH 2001) provide national/organizational framework for occupational Safety and Health Management Systems8. As per these guidelines, the OSH management system should contain the main elements of policy, organizing, planning and implementation, evaluation and action for improvement.
Key Features that should be fulfilled by an Efficient Safety and Health Management System are as Follows:
- It should ensure safety of different operational sites by correctly mapping the business processes, risks, and controls involved in all the three segments (upstream, midstream and downstream) of Oil and Gas industry
- It should enable workers to follow consistent health and safety practices
- It should help in managing site inspections, permits, violations, lessons learned and best practices execution for Oil and Gas sector
- It must be well documented (strategies and action plans) and should be easily understood and readily available to all the workers