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Assessing critical risks in workplaces is an imperative, not an option

By Suresh Tanwar, Head of Audit and Consultancy - India, British Safety Council,

Added 20 June 2024

Assessing critical risks in workplaces is essential to prevent accidents and save lives. The article sheds light on how regular safety audits in high-risk industries can identify hazards and improve safety measures, ensuring a secure work environment.

As per a recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) study, nearly three million workers worldwide lose their lives annually due to work-related accidents and illnesses, marking an alarming increase of over five per cent since 2015. In India alone, according to a 2021 report from the Labour Ministry to Parliament, over the past five years, at least 6,500 employees lost their lives while working in factories, ports, mines, and construction sites. These figures highlight the constant struggle to ensure the health and safety of employees, particularly in high-risk sectors such as Construction, Metals, Chemicals, Power, Oil & Gas, Pharma and Automotive.

Critical safety risks refer to events that pose seminal threats to business operations, potentially resulting in worker fatalities or permanent disabilities. These risks often stem from process oversights and can include accidents due to fire, falls from heights, and other mishaps. Investing in prevention efforts is more beneficial in terms of both human lives and business profitability, making the regular assessment of critical risks essential.

How can organisations assess critical risks?

A critical risks safety audit delves deep into situations that pose significant risks of injury or harm to individuals and assets. It rigorously assesses high-risk tasks such as working at heights, confined space entry, lifting operations, electrical and fire safety, ground excavation, contractor safety, and specific areas like molten metal handling.

Additionally, it examines commitment of the organisation's leadership, accountability, risk assessment and management, and permit-to-work procedures. This comprehensive process involves extensive engagement with all employees, on-site inspections, and thorough examination of documentation.

How does a critical risks safety audit work?

Conducting a critical risks safety audit involves a detailed examination of all safety controls related to hazardous activities and checks the efficacy of existing safety measures to prevent severe injuries.

The audit employs a tailored method to evaluate an organisation's safety performance in high-risk activities, benchmarking it against global best practices. The findings are compiled into a customised report that offers insights into the organisation's current standing and pinpoints areas of improvement.

Consultancy service then offer recommendations, knowledge sharing and training to enhance safety measures.

Step-by-step critical risks safety audit process

The audit process calls for the active engagement of every employee within the organisation. It takes place in 4 phases: leadership commitment and careful planning, implementation and operation, performance monitoring and measurement, evaluation and continuous improvement. Collective participation and commitment from all levels of the organisation are essential for the audit's success.

Benefits of the critical risks safety audit

Research indicates that adhering to occupational safety regulations is crucial and should be seamlessly integrated into day-to-day business operations, especially for organisations that engage in high-risk activities. Non-compliance not only jeopardises the safety of individuals but also exposes businesses to potential injuries, risks, and legal liabilities.

Key takeaways

High-risk and hazardous industrial operations demand prioritised critical risks safety audit. Continuous review and enhancement of safety and health management systems are imperative to improve safety performance across all departments.

The audit process enables management to gain insights into high-risk areas and the potential hazards, leading to a focused approach to safety management and a positive, confident, and secure work environment for all stakeholders.

Choosing the proper partner organisation to conduct a comprehensive critical risks safety audit is essential. The right partner will have experienced auditors trained for internal quality assurance and meet professional body standards. Their audit reports should undergo technical verification and quality endorsement before being issued to clients. It is best to partner with globally recognised audit and consultancy services firms that offer reliable means to ensure robust organisational health and safety systems.

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