The HSE publication HS (G) 65 Successful Health and Safety Management, the British Standards Institute's BS 8800 A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems and more recently OHSAS 18001 go a long way in identifying a model around which an effective management system can be developed. A vital element of the model is an audit that enables organisations to identify improvements and feed into the review process to enable improvement to take place. To support the audit process RoSPA has developed QSA, the Quality Safety Audit.
What are the main features of QSA?
- It measures performance against the guidance of the HSE, BSI AND OHSAS
- The results provided are quantitative to facilitate benchmarking.
- It encourages progressive improvements in health and safety.
- It is universal in application.
- It embodies the principles of risk management which have formed the basis of legislation and therefore tests compliance.
- It is supported by the training and management development resources of RoSPA.
- It follows the principles of auditing set down in ISO 19011: 2002 for quality/environmental auditing.
How does the system work?
It is essential that the audit is carried out by a competent auditor. RoSPA's consultants can carry out the audit for you, or alternatively RoSPA provides comprehensive training for in-company auditors and when they have satisfied the required standard they are deemed competent to carry out an audit for their organisation.
The audit examines an organisation's safety management system against the elements listed in HSG 65 and BS 8800, and incorporates all of the clauses of OHSAS 18001.
The question set leads the auditor through a detailed examination of both documented procedures and the way activities are actually being controlled in practice. The use of pre-set questions enables an audit team to operate at different sites and at different times and still to come to comparable conclusions with regard to the management of health and safety.
A numerical score is allocated to each question and all the points are awarded for a yes answer, but none for a no answer, so reducing the subjectivity in scoring. The points awarded reflect the degree of importance of the question. A total score is obtained for each element and this is used to calculate a score which represents the overall performance of the organisation. This score, which is called the health and safety performing rating or HSPR, is a single figure between 1 and 100 which can be used to assist in benchmarking performance.
Under the heading of Organising, the Audit examines the way in which responsibilities within the safety management system have been allocated to policy makers, planners and implementers and that there is supporting documentation for these activities.
In essence, the QSA system adopts the HSG 65 principles of performance standards as its base. Procedures which describe how an organisation can meet the required performance standards fall into the main categories described in HSG 65:
Those which describe how the organisation will develop its safety culture under the heading of the four Cs.
Those which describe how the organisation will control risks and relate to:
- Corporate planning, with the setting of objectives for the organisation
- Operational planning, centred around the assessment of risks and the setting of control measures
In addition to addressing the risk assessment process in its own right, QSA also examines performance in 10 key sets of risk control issues, focused on specific legislation and selected from a library of question sets to reflect the activities and risk profile of the organisation.
Why should employers be interested in safety auditing?
An audit is defined by the HSE as:
"The structured process of collecting independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the total safety management system and drawing up plans for corrective action." HSE- HSG 65.
To identify the most effective way to bring about improvement in the management of health and safety within an organisation it is important to know the starting point. Strengths and weaknesses will be identified and appropriate solutions to promote improvement can be devised.
The principle of auditing has been established for a long time in both financial management and quality assurance. The importance of audit as a tool in safety management was recognised by Desmond Fennel QC who, in his report on the King's Cross disaster, stated:
"It is essential that a system should be devised whereby safety of operation can be the subject of audit in the same way as efficiency and economy. If the internal audit has become a yardstick by which financial performance is measured only by such a tool can the board, and hence the general public be satisfied that all aspects of safety are maintained at the right level."
The pattern of health and safety legislation is quite clear since the introduction of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations in 1992, amended in 1999. Employers are required to create safety management systems which need to be supported by documented procedures if they are to be effective. To test how effective the system is a thorough audit has to be conducted. Effective and efficient management of an employer's legal obligations will ensure that valuable resources are not wasted on the wrong solutions and ensure that legal compliance can be achieved.
Why choose QSA?
QSA with its training, consultancy, and user support network provides employers with the lifeline they will require if they are to survive the radical changes still taking place in the world of safety management.
There are no short cuts or easy options for employers, but right from the very first audit the information will be available to enable the path to success to be identified.
To provide an incentive for the use of the QSA system, and to recognise levels of achievement in health and safety management, there is the option of inclusion in the RoSPA QSA Award scheme in which many organisations have chosen to become involved. There is no pass or fail in QSA, rather the system reveals levels of performance in managing health and safety effectively.
QSA is a state of the art system that undergoes regular updates to ensure that its users are keeping pace with the new demands being placed upon them.