Basic Principles of an Industrial Facility Safety Audit
Written by Jack Rubinger
While the US manufacturing sector seems to be coming back, we don't hear much about industrial and manufacturing safety. There are procedures developed to address industrial safety. Of critical importance is the Industrial Facility Safety Audit.
Before getting started, think about the last facility safety audit conducted. What activities were checked? Were changes implemented? Decide which job(s) should be examined by the following criteria:
- Accident frequency and severity
- Potential for severe injuries and illness
- New jobs
- Modified jobs
- Infrequently performed jobs
Inspire team involvement. Examine equipment and facilities, review appropriate paperwork and safety signage for all areas and chat with co-workers who work in these areas. Start with the parking lot. Are parking signs the correct dimensions (18 x 12 inches) and made of a durable material (aluminum)? Carry out similar evaluations throughout your entire facility.
- Check warehouses to follow 5S, Kanban and Kaizen guidelines for efficiency. Typically, many common signs are needed.
- Review welding, spray booth, compressed gas storage areas. You'll need highly visible hazard signs in each of these areas to provide proper safety.
- The maintenance shop. You'll typically find chemicals such as gas, solvents and cleaning supplies as well as possible electrical (arc flash) and mechanical hazards.
- Chemical storage areas are important, too. Check for hazard warnings, leaks, spills, exposure to flammable materials and air flow. Here, pipe marking and pipe labels are appropriate.
- Lockout/tag out (LO/TO). All energy sources are to be turned off and locked out while machines are serviced to prevent accidents. Energy sources that can't be locked out must be tagged out.
- Buildings must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Life Safety Code 101. Check exits, restrooms, etc. for proper and required signage.
- Conduct a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
Safety and health consultant James Pryor has conducted many Industrial Facility Safety audits. He's also been the subject of many industrial safety audits. Pryor is the Vice President of Marketing Business Development for American Safety and Health Management Consultants, Inc. "In my experience as part of a large corporation, I had the time and resources to conduct a JHA. To me, the JHA is the single most important tool in preventing accidents," explained Pryor.
A JHA includes these steps:
- Select job to be analyzed
- Break job into sequences
- Identify hazards
- Determine preventive measures to overcome hazards
Industrial facilities are the breeding grounds for a long list of dangerous scenarios. While some are minor, others are major and not a matter of choice but a matter of the law under OSHA and other government regulations. Those who choose to disregard these laws may be subject to harsh penalties – both monetary and emotional.
According to Pryor, many learn to view safety as a series of events that contribute to the overall safety culture. Safety audits help measure performance in regards to workplace safety.
Being accidentally struck by an object, machine-related accidents, falls and exposure to deadly substances and environments such as poisons, oxygen shortage, electrical shock and fire are leading causes of workplace fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Like a trip to a dentist, the industrial safety audit is designed to be preventative – to identify those areas needing improvement – before anything bad actually happens. For example, chemical burns from leaky barrels can be caused by sodium, lithium or potassium as well as acids such as sulfuric and hydrofluoric acid.
Most jobs can be described in about 10 steps. Each basic step may have associated hazards – determined by observation, knowledge of accident and injury causes and personal experience. Really, the best way to determine hazards is just by watching someone work.
Example: A lathe operator in a machining department. His work requires several steps. One step involves flying metal shards or cutting oil which impacts the eyes, face or skin. These are hazards created by blowing off cutting fluid and metal shards from the lathe mounting plate with compressed air. In a typical JFA form, there may be more than one form of protection for the lathe operator – lowering compressed air pressure, using a vacuum, brush or cloth to remove debris and recommending eye protection.
There are four ways to determine preventative measures:
- Eliminating the hazard through engineering – increasing ventilation, changing equipment or tools
- Containing the hazard with enclosures
- Administrative procedures like changing the sequence of steps or adding lockout/tag out (LO/TO) devices
- Leveraging Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
It's not enough to develop a to–do list that winds up on a manager's shelf. Safety action plans should reflect workplace changes – new employees, new managers and new equipment.
After the audit has been conducted and changes and corrections have been made, document and share the following with all in a safety log book:
- Have the number of injuries increased, decreased or remained the same?
- What about increased or decreased exposure to potential hazards?
- Changed attitudes? Hard to gauge unless surveys and open discussions are conducted and recorded.
- Physical changes that make a place feel safer
While an Industrial Facility Safety Audit should result in a number of corrective actions, ask yourself this question.
Do you feel safe at work? If the answer is "no" or "not sure," then you've got your work cut out for you. If the answer is "yes," then your work is done – for now.
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