By Joanna Weekes
Last week we discussed how often health and safety audits and inspections should be carried out in your workplace to ensure that the highest safety standards are maintained throughout.
Today, we look at what a health and safety audit actually involves and how to conduct one.
How to conduct a health and safety audit
The goal of a health and safety audit is to assist in the continuous improvement of your company’s OHS procedures. The audit should:
- Identify the risks and the levels of those risks within the workplace;
- Identify strengths and weaknesses in your safety procedures;
- Assess whether your safety procedures are legally compliant;
- Compare current documentation and practices against best practice and legal obligations;
- Recommend improvements in your safety procedures;
- Ensure that there adequate resources available to manage OHS; and
- Ensure that the resources devoted to health and safety are being utilised effectively.
What does a health and safety audit involve?
An audit of your health and safety management systems identifies whether the safety systems are operating effectively, or whether they need to be more efficient.
An audit may be an independent event or part of an ongoing program. In addition, audits:
- Can focus on a particular activity (e.g. how hazardous substances are controlled);
- Can focus on a particular part of the organisation (e.g. the packing area); or
- May address the overall performance of the health and safety management system.
An audit of an OHS management system will address areas such as:
- OHS responsibilities;
- organisational structure;
- Consultation arrangements;
- Implementation of all procedures and activities;
- Hazard identification, assessment and control;
- Training and competence;
- Measurement, reporting and evaluation; and
- Review of the OHS system and its overall performance.
How to conduct an audit
After you have chosen the area to audit:
Step 1: Answer a group of questions in a particular sequence.
Base your audit questions around law and standards. Firstly, audit your documented safety procedures to ensure they are compliant. Secondly, audit the level of compliance with these safety procedures in the actual workplace by doing an inspection of the way things are carried out by your employees.
Step 2: Write an audit report.
The report must list all the issues that you were alerted to in step 1. These are called ‘audit findings’.
Use the audit report to identify the risks and assess the level of those risks.
Step 3: Develop an action plan to correct them.
Prioritise the risk controls that you will apply to those risks using the hierarchy of control to develop an action plan. This action plan should then be communicated to employees with the relevant training.
Some of the actions that you need to take may need to be included in your objectives and targets. The actions that go into your objectives and targets are usually the actions you have to carefully plan and budget for.