Health and Safety Audits and Auditing
The Power of Health and Safety Audits and Auditing
Health and Safety Audits can be a powerful and effective way of identifying real issues, raising health and safety awareness and improving the health and safety culture of an organisation. Having a health and safety audit program sends a clear message to everyone involved in an organisation that health and safety is important.
Developing a safety culture is an important part of health and safety management. Health and safety audits can be a powerful tool in developing the process. There a a few things needed to develop a world class health and safety culture:
commitment throughout the organisation (especially from the top);
competence at all levels of the organisation, through directors, managers, advisors and employees;
a structure (such as defined in HSG65 or OHSAS 18,001); and
a high level of involvement.
Get these elements right and a positive safety culture will be assured. Using an health and safety audit is a way of developing involvement, structure and competence to implement the change.
Health and Safety Audits are really valuable at a range of levels, as they indicate the current status of the safety management system, and can be really useful for driving improvements. For example, the site manager needs to know their audit score and understand the actions that they need to take to improve the performance of their site. Effectively they need ‘To do’ lists with explanations. Senior managers on the other hand want the overall picture, how one area compares with another. They want to understand the strength of different systems across the company, so they can make tactical and strategic decisions.”
Tracking health and safety audit actions and related scores also gives a fair indication of the level of commitment in any one area. As Fennell said after the King’s Cross underground fire: ". . .If the internal audit has become the yardstick by which financial performance is measured, then the safety audit should become the yardstick by which safety is measured".”
The credibility of audits suffers if inconsistent standards are applied, or if the depth and standard of reports vary significantly. To remain credible there has to be a way of ensuring consistency between auditors and between audits.”
There are a number of ways that safety audits can be structured, and before any substantial auditing activity takes place it is imperative that the kind of audit required is considered.
At a site level the questions to be asked are likely to be focused on the implementation of policy, procedures and the day-to-day management of safety. At a corporate level, suitable questions are more likely to relate to the ongoing strategy of health and safety management, together with questions relating to focusing and demonstrating senior management commitment.”
For health and safety audits to be effective, knowledgeable auditors are needed, with time to write the audit report properly (often as much time, if not more, is spent writing the report as auditing). The requirement for expert safety auditors and the administration time involved are significant factors and must be addressed if the audit, as a tool, is to deliver its full potential.
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If your organisation would like to explore the power and potential of health and safety auditing please call us now!