Health & Safety Audits

Definitions

Audits - The Health and Safety Executive define safety audits as: “The collection of independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the total health and safety management system and drawing up plans for corrective action.

Inspections – Inspections use a visual interpretation of a workplace or area. Gathering information by identifying present hazards, assessing the use and effectiveness of existing control measures, and suggesting remedial action where the current measures are inadequate

Why Have An Audit Or Inspection?

Safety audits/inspections are an essential part of a successful business. Effective health and safety auditing not only provides the legal framework for compliance, it also lays the foundations for continuous safety improvement to enhance competitive advantage. The main duty of any health and safety auditor is to look at your organisation’s safety management systems and assess them in line with the chosen criteria.

Whilst an audit is used to assess Health and Safety management systems, it is important to view an audit as a positive – it’s a chance to highlight company successes and an opportunity to praise staff for their excellent work.

What is covered in an Audit?

  • Evaluation of legal compliance
  • Company Policy management 
  • Hazard identification and control measure review
  • Competency of employees
  • Communication methods used and their effectiveness
  • Performance measurement and monitoring
  • Recommendations for improvements
  • Risk assessments review
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Results from internal audits and evaluations

Internal vs. External Audit

There are two potential routes to auditing your organisation. The first method is to train an employee to become your internal safety auditor, alternatively an external auditor could be appointed to conduct this safety audit. Naturally enough there are pros and cons to each method. 

Internal audits

Pros

  • Organisations can view the auditor as a ‘management instrument’ in developing performance standards and getting working procedures into place
  • Your trained auditor will have greater understanding of how your organisation operates
  • Internal auditors are given more freedom to help with suggestions and will highlight what sort of action is necessary
  • The audit can be carried out in segments, which also allows it to be flexible and minimise disruption within your organisation
  • Can be cost effective

Cons

  • Little or no experience in conducting health and safety audits – we recommend that auditors have the NEBOSH Diploma or the NEBOSH certificate
  • Internal audit reports are not generally accepted by shareholders
  • Audit may be biased and therefore organisations cannot depend on such reports
  • If the audit is not conducted by a professional auditor, there could be a higher chance of errors not being detected
  • Priority may not be given to conducting the audit
  • Conflicts may arise

External Audits

You could opt for an external auditor – outsourcing the auditing ensures you will be adhering to the requirement to carry out an 'independent assessment' of your safety management systems as outlined in the Health and Safety Executive's best-practice document (HSG65).

Pros

  • Auditors tend to be Members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
  • Benchmark your organisation against other organisations outside or within your sector
  • Can assess your organisation against OHSAS 45001
  • Experience of conducting health and safety audits within various industries
  • Unbiased and expert recommendations, detailed report
  • Your organisation can receive an auditing award at the same time as the audit is
  • conducted, which will demonstrate the findings from your safety audit

Cons

  • Your organisation needs to allocate staff time and management to the external auditor
  • An external auditor does not fully understand how your organisation operates
  • An external auditor normally is given a lack of freedom within the organisation that they are visiting
  • Can be expensive and time-consuming, however many training and consultancy
  • Providers are flexible with their approach to conducting their safety auditing
Is A Health And Safety Audit A Legal Requirement?

The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance document HSG65 "Successful Health and Safety Management" recommends that audits are undertaken.

Safety audits are widely accepted to be best practice as they enable organisations to focus resources on areas of need, prioritise actions and facilitate continuous improvement. However, a health and safety audit is not currently a legal necessity.

How Many From My Current Team Of Auditors Should I Train For Health And Safety Auditing?

It depends on the size and activities of the individual organisation. The qualifications of the potential auditors also need to be taken into consideration. For a large, multi-site organisation it may be appropriate to train two or three individuals on the QSA Auditors course.

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