Safety audits: Introducing 4 new improvements to boost the efficiency of audits

Safety audits, control assurance and verification are essential elements of any risk management system. The effectiveness of the measures used to mitigate risk must be verified in practice, not just on paper. For those of you working in the functional safety lifecycle, control assurance is an indispensable part of the system. Process safety verification is an integral part of business-as-usual. It’s a health check that tells you whether your control measures are working.

For other practitioners who are working with simpler systems, safety audits and assurance activities are no less valuable. Implementing a new engineering control is a good start on the risk journey, but how can you be confident that the risk has been mitigated? You need to inspect the implementation of that control. How else do you build confidence that your system of controls actually works?

RiskView’s new Verification Wizard functionality

Assurance activities should be based on the decisions made during layers of protection analysis (LOPA). RiskView risk management software provides a platform for conducting LOPA through HAZIDs and HAZOPs. Bowtie diagrams can be created automatically using HAZID/HAZOP data. Once the bowties have been fully populated with appropriate preventative and mitigative controls, you’re ready to start planning for control assurance activities. This makes our safety audits software package particularly powerful.

Let’s use the below example to look at your starting point in more detail:

Safety incident bowtie risk analysis

In this example, we’re working with a simple safety risk scenario. The top event is a worker being struck by moving plant or equipment. The loss of control arises because the worker is directly in the path of an oncoming vehicle that cannot stop in time. The probable consequence is serious injury or fatality. There is also likely to be lost productivity, and potentially also reputational damage.

Accordingly, we’ve identified a range of controls to mitigate the risk. Controls such as driver training and vehicle movement alarms can reduce the likelihood of the top event occurring. Controls such as a critical incident recovery plan can reduce the harmful consequences should the top event occur.

The new RiskView Verification Wizard is designed to make the process of inspecting these controls more efficient (and maybe even enjoyable, for some at least). How do you make the most of the new capability? Read on.

Verification Wizard process

Setting up verification activities is fairly straightforward, and builds on the knowledge built during the risk analysis process. The way to get the most benefit is to set up performance standards and base controls within the system. If this is done during initial risk analysis, the system can automatically generate tools for the audits. This reduces the complexity of your risk analysis as well as facilitating ongoing verification. The process looks like the adjacent flowchart.

Create Performance Standards and Verification Templates for instant control assurance

RiskView has functionality to develop Performance Standards within the system. Performance Standards represent the technical standards (such as IEC 61511), the corporate policies or other business rules that establish benchmarks for performance. These can be linked to the controls you select during LOPA or added when setting up the Verification Template. Performance Criteria are the specific items by which performance is to be judged.

The acceptable result for each Performance Criteria is set from within the Performance Standard Setup. Some criteria, such as the presence or absence of a thing, can be recorded as either “complies” or “does not comply”. Some criteria need to be measured along a continuum: such as “low”, “medium”, or “high” or percentage values. Measures will vary according to the safety context you are operating in and the types of audits you intend to conduct.

Performance Standards can be whatever your organisation needs them to be. In the example above, the standard has been set by corporate health and safety procedures. It doesn’t take long to create Performance Standards and Performance Criteria, particularly if you’re working with a technical standard that lays it all out for you. In most cases, standards can be copied and pasted directly from an Excel spreadsheet into RiskView.

The Performance Standards form the backbone of your control assurance activities. Safety audits can be initiated based directly on the Performance Criteria that you determine. For example, you might audit the compliance of a particular set of safety instruments with the appropriate process safety technical standard. RiskView enables you to set guidance notes and comments during setup, so that auditors can get easy clarification in the field when they are using the Verification Wizard for safety audits.

The Wizard can also have capability for offline audits: so if your control assurance activities are likely to be conducted on a mobile device with no connectivity (e.g. in an area where phones must be set to flight mode), you’ll want to make sure that there are enough guidance notes to help your auditors through the process. They won’t be able to make calls or do Google searches to clarify what unclear Performance Criteria might mean.

Performance standards set up for safety audits

The Verification Wizard pulls data from the Performance Standard straight into audits. For example, if you have set the Performance Criteria result as “complies” or “does not comply”, those are the options the auditor will have to pick from in the drop-down box. If you select the “does not comply” option, the Wizard automatically prompts you to specify what actions should immediately be taken to manage the risk.

Verification wizard for safety audits

You can set up additional information for the auditor when you create the Verification Template for particular audits. This includes an introduction front page which can display formatted text, which is a handy place to put any essential information you want your auditors to see before they start the audit. For example, you might want to emphasise that the auditor must notify the relevant business unit manager prior to commencing an audit in one of their plants.

You can also specify the steps to be performed and how long the audit is scheduled to take. All of this information is captured within the Verification Wizard, and the person responsible for conducting the audit can access the activity directly using an email link. The process for setting up verification activities is simple and minimises wasted time.

Create Base Controls that can be verified by control assurance activities

Building Base Controls into your LOPA bowties enables you to get the most benefit out of RiskView’s Verification Wizard. Base Controls (or Critical Controls) are categories of safety controls that have common characteristics. For example, an organisation might have a permit-to-work system as a risk control. That control may show up multiple times in the same bowtie or in different contexts: but the permit-to-work system should operate in much the same way wherever it is used. For that reason, it is fair to say that the effectiveness of that base control in one location should be representative of its effectiveness elsewhere.

Rationalising controls into base controls helps with conducting assurance activities on that control. Assurance activities can be raised against a critical control throughout the operation. Safety audits will then hone in on that control in every workplace. This capability is particularly important for process safety operators who are working with the functional safety lifecycle.

Findings from safety audits

The new Verification Wizard provides a step-by-step process that captures more relevant information about the effectiveness of these controls in the field. On mobile devices, you can take photos with the camera as further evidence of compliance or non-compliance. These are displayed along with the auditor’s comments on the final audit report. As the manager overseeing risk, you can easily see the performance of that control throughout the business, and compare it week-by-week against audits. If you have good Performance Standards set up, this provides a really neat way to monitor risk performance through safety audits.

Create Major Accident Events that can be verified by control assurance activities

Inspection of anchor hardwareUsing the Major Accident Event functionality of RiskView can boost your ability to monitor the nightmare scenarios in your workplace. The Verification Wizard interacts with Major Accident
Events to ensure that there are verification activities that target the prevention of those nightmare scenarios.

A Major Accident Event is a catastrophic incident which may result from a loss-of-control scenario, or potentially from a range of different loss-of-control scenarios. It represents a particular type of incident that keeps risk managers up at night. By creating Major Accident Events in RiskView, you can identify which risk scenarios could result in that type of accident. This gives you some certainty about which particular scenarios are likely to be of concern to process safety.

The Verification Wizard allows you to schedule safety audits that focus on all risk scenarios that could lead to a Major Accident Event. The key benefit of this is that you can focus your auditing resources where they can do the most good. If you only have so many auditors and so many man-hours for control assurance, it makes sense to focus them on the incidents that are of the most concern.

Improvements in decision-making, corporate knowledge and stakeholder engagement

The value of the Verification Wizard is the benefits it brings to risk decision-making. When decision-makers make decisions about which risk controls to implement, they need some means of validating their decisions. The Verification Wizard provides some measure of confidence that decisions can be tested and proven (or disproven). Once control assurance activities are underway, the Verification Wizard feeds into new cycles of risk decision-making. If selected controls are not effective, the findings, photos and comments of auditors are made available to risk decision-makers. They are then in a position to review and revise earlier decisions based on available evidence from completed audits.

Decision-making during safety audits

The Verification Wizard also provides an opportunity for more stakeholders to be engaged in risk decision-making. Auditors, whoever they may be within the business, are drawn into using RiskView as part of business-as-usual. They become engaged in the process and have a stake in making sure that the job is done right. They are also able to contribute to corporate knowledge through their evidence and observations. The Verification Wizard is optimised for mobile devices, and thus enhances your ability to collect data at the coalface. This captures key data such as observations that may be forgotten on returning to the office. This type of corporate knowledge is now easier to make accessible to risk decision-makers.

There is every reason to strive for efficiency and rigour in the conduct of safety audits and control assurance activities. The Verification Wizard is a vital new tool to add to that toolbox.

The Verification Wizard is available as part of RiskView, our cloud-based risk analysis platform. Contact us if you would like to know more about how RiskView can improve the efficiency of your safety audits.

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