How to conduct a health and safety audit

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Team Kiri Align
12th April 2021

Conducting a health and safety audit is a great way to ensure that your business is compliant with all the relevant laws and regulations. You should conduct an audit at least once a year and make it a priority to address any problems that you find. In this post you will discover all that you need to know to conduct an audit.

In Australia, every business with more than one employee is required by law to conduct a health and safety audit, at least once a year. The idea behind these audits is to identify potential health and safety risks in the workplace, and to develop an action plan to mitigate them.

Health and safety audit is an important and proactive tool that plays a crucial role in building a good health and safety culture within an organisation. They form an important part of the health and safety management system as well.

In order for an audit to be effective, you need to have the right tools, know how to conduct an audit and which areas of the business you should be focusing on. In this blog post, we will explain what an audit is, how it differs from a risk assessment, and how to do one at the Australian workplace.

Health and safety audit - Kiri Align

What is a health and safety audit?

An audit is a systematic review of safety, health and welfare systems and controls in a business. This means all aspects of safety and health in a business, such as the establishment and operation of WHS policies, procedures, processes, and technology.

Why conduct an audit?

An audit is conducted to help employers manage risks. It helps to ensure the health and safety of employees, as well as identify risk factors that could unduly affect the quality of the workplace.

The purpose of an audit is not to uncover every vulnerable issue, but to identify any deficiencies that could pose a risk to the health or safety of workers, to inform the correction of those deficiencies, and to give feedback on how to improve workplace health and safety.

The WHS Act states that employers are required to carry out a health and safety audit within 12 months of the establishment or re-establishment of the business.  So, you need an audit for compliance.

In summary, health and safety audits can be performed by:

● Government agencies as part of monitoring compliance with the country's legal requirements.

● External auditors for the purpose of certifying an organisation to a certain standard

● Internal inspections carried out as part of an internal audit or a scheduled health and safety management program

What are the benefits of a health and safety audit?

The primary benefit of conducting an audit is that it identifies risks (some risk factors are more important than others) and provides organisations with information on how they can reduce them. It can also help organisations to identify areas where inefficiencies or errors are occurring, or could prevent future problems. It can provide organisations with an action plan to address any issues identified.

Why is this important?

If you are not willing to spend the time and resources to identify the risks, you will be laying the groundwork for them to spring up and cause issues. You are effectively increasing your chances of not being able to avoid problems down the line, which could have a significant negative impact on your business. Reducing the risk can lead to a number of benefits, including cutting costs, streamlining processes, improving safety and productivity, and reducing unexpected incidents.

How does health and safety audit differ from a risk assessment?

In comparison to a risk assessment, a 'health and safety audit' is an exercise that aims to uncover data to identify risks at the workplace and to develop measures and strategies to manage that risk. In contrast, a risk assessment is an assessment of a particular hazard at a specific location. For example, in the event of a workplace chemical leak, a risk assessment might identify a range of potential outcomes, each requiring a different response from the business.

Key elements that make a successful health and safety audit

A successful health and safety audit is about more than just ticking a box or meeting a legal requirement. It is about creating a safe culture within your workplace by identifying hazards and risks, and developing a plan to eliminate or mitigate them.

The following are important factors that must be present in every health and safety audit:

Commitment

A successful health and safety audit requires commitment from people at all levels of the organisation. For it to be effective, management and staff need to be fully committed to making the changes required to improve the company’s health and safety performance.

This means that you need to ask yourself why you are doing the audit and how much money and time you have to dedicate to it. Leadership commitment is crucial for a successful health and safety audit. You need to be committed to the process of auditing and follow through with the plan that you have put together to make sure your company is safe. There is a reason why health and safety audits are considered best practice for any company - they work and they work well.

The right tools

A health and safety audit is basically a review of the business operations and practices to determine how well it complies with relevant legislation. The right tools will help you to carry out your audit professionally and efficiently.

There are different types of tools you can use depending on the audit you are conducting. Some types of information gathering tools are manual and involve supervisory people such as front-line employees, whereas other types of information gathering tools are automated. A lot of people think that you need to be a qualified safety professional to conduct a successful health and safety audit. However, this is not the case. In fact, you can conduct a very successful health and safety audit with the right tools.

Depending on your issue, you will need different tools, such as a checklist, software to deal with the issues, audit rules to carry out the audit, reference lists to follow up on if you need guidance, reporting templates, email notifications or anything else you need to know in order to carry out your audit successfully. Kiri Align cloud based solution provides all these and allows you to conduct your audits on-site or remotely even if you are not tech savvy.

Effective collaboration

When it comes to your health and safety audit, you cannot do it alone. You need to get all the players on your team involved, in order to make sure that you are following all the right procedures and doing everything correctly. You need to make sure that your workforce knows how to access the required information to conduct an audit.

Sometimes the best way to improve your chances of success is to have a third party look at it from an outsider’s point of view. A health and safety audit, conducted by a professional, can help you identify where your business has blind spots and areas for improvement.

Data Collection

A health and safety audit will help you identify where you need to improve your health and safety procedures. Without data, you won’t know where to focus your efforts, and you won’t be able to measure the changes you’ve made. You can only make informed decisions by collecting data.

So, you will need to collect a lot of information about the working conditions of your employees. You will need to note any potential hazards and also areas where you can improve. This is necessary in order to perform a detailed analysis of the most important health and safety issues in your company. You can collect the data using Kiri Align specialised software that enables accurate and streamlined data collection.

Risk Management

A successful health and safety audit is all about risk management. You need to identify the risks associated with your workplace and then decide which risks can be eliminated or reduced and which ones you need to be prepared to accept. For an audit to be effective therefore, corporations should put in place a plan to identify and assess risk, followed by a detailed schedule of corrective actions, using a risk management framework.

Audit reports

A successful health and safety audit is all about detail. If you are going to do a health and safety audit, you need to be very thorough. You cannot just do a quick walkthrough of your facility and expect everything to be perfect.

The audit is meant to provide information for use in decision making. In order to make any changes to your health and safety management system, you are going to need to know what areas need changing. This is where a detailed audit report comes in handy, as it does not just tell you what’s wrong; it also provides recommendations for how to fix the problem.

A detailed audit report is necessary to determine whether there are any health and safety violations in the workplace. Inspectors will check if your business has a safe system of work in place. A detailed audit report is needed as proof for a successful health and safety audit.

How to prepare for a health and safety audit?

To ensure that all issues are covered by the audit, it is practical for the inspection team to design a checklist that- in short, addresses all potential risks. It is likely that the list will differ depending on the workplace. For example, it is unlikely that a checklist for a construction site would contain the same hazards as a checklist used to assess the risks within an office environment.

Checklists should be reviewed and revised on a continuous basis to make provisions for new developments such as the purchase of new types of equipment, changes in procedures or following the identification of a new hazard or after an accident.

Additionally, international, regional or national health and safety standards must be taken into account when preparing for all types of health and safety audits. Such standards can focus on different risk areas within a company such as working in tight spaces, handling hazardous materials, risks from machines and so on.

Best practices for conducting a health and safety audit in the Australian Workplace

1. Who should be Involved in the Audit Process? Health and safety audit exercise can be formalized or can be informal or unstructured. An audit can be conducted by a single person, an experienced compliance professional, an external compliance consultant or contractor, an internal compliance officer, or a group of its employees. An audit can also involve government agencies, external experts, insurance companies and third-parties.

2. An audit is a very technical and tedious process followed by highly dedicated stakeholder teams. Before an audit is carried out, organisations should develop a risk assessment (Risk Matrix) model. This model provides a set of rules and guidelines that should be adhered to in order for an audit to be successful.

3. The organisation should also create 'action plans' to implement the changes needed to manage any non-compliance identified during the audit, such as adding a safety awareness programme, creating a workplace emergency plan, updating the checklist or diagnostic tools, performing a risk assessment conducted by an experienced professional, or maintaining a formal safeguarding program.

4. An independent third party (or checklist vendor) should also be consulted before making any significant changes to an audit, to make sure it is carried out in an effective manner and preventing wrong-doing.

How to conduct an audit in the Australian workplace

A workplace health and safety audit can be carried out for a workplace or selected parts of a business. Audit should include every aspect of the business that has the potential to cause an accident/incident. This should include the workplaces, equipment, business operation processes, materials etc.

Regardless of whether the audit is carried out by an internal or an external team, the methodology normally follows the same logic, by producing a checklist of areas to be visited, selecting competence and expertise within the group, conducting inspections and concluding with a meeting to identify actions and assign responsibilities.

Audits typical take into account the following:

● The risks and levels of those risks

● The effectiveness of current procedures and controls

● Examination of compliance with legal requirements

● Potential areas for improvement

● Access to resources for managing health and safety requirements.

These reviews should cover the following areas:

Workspace

A large part of all health and safety audit checklists pertain to the employees' work area. The list should note whether the work area is kept clean and organised. Keeping work areas organised and free of debris helps reduce health and safety risks. Work areas should be easily accessible to all employees without equipment or misplaced objects clogging walkways. Employees found to meet safety requirements may be required to rectify the problem immediately or take disciplinary action.

Business Operation processes

This has to do with how employees complete tasks, deliver goods or services. The review should determine if industry best practices have been adhered to including methodologies and standards of materials used in the processes.

Tools, machines, and equipment

Check all tools and equipment to make sure they are working properly. Old or damaged equipment can cause injury to employees, including electric shock cuts and burns. Tools that do not work or that do not have their safety devices must be repaired or replaced immediately. Regulators should check that employees know how to properly use all tools and equipment before use.

Emergency and First aid

All organisations should have first aid guidelines and procedures applied. Health and safety auditors should note the location and delivery levels of all first aid kits. Make sure all employees understand the company's first aid policy and know where the first aid kits are in case of emergency.

Insurance

The company must have insurance that makes it possible for workers' compensation to help health care costs cover personnel resulting from occupational injuries. The accident insurance only covers injuries at work.

What happens after a health and safety audit?

At the end of each audit, it is important that the information obtained is reviewed carefully and that corrective measures are put in place where a significant risk has been identified.

It is not always an easy task and much of the observations and results may require evaluation by subject matter experts to identify the best way forward.

The results of health and safety audits are indications of success or failure for management's policies and practices and should be examined to implement any measures that create change. Although all identified hazards should ultimately be eliminated or minimized, risks that pose an immediate danger should be identified so that corrective action can be taken in a timely manner.

The results can sometimes be used to identify trends and help monitor the effectiveness of a company's health and safety program.

During the concluding discussions after the inspection, a review can highlight the requirements for training, insights into why certain areas report more overall incidents, set priorities for corrective action and identify areas where resources or further in-depth analysis may be required.

When considering action plans, it is important to prioritize risk controls using a risk matrix. These action plans should be discussed in the team and adopted before deciding on any corrective action.

There may be times when an action is not immediately available. Then it is important to allow a reasonable period of time for when measures are to be implemented and present reasons why a longer timeline may be required.

What do you need to ensure a health and safety audit is done correctly?

Our statistics show that health and safety audits really work and that audited workplaces have a significantly lower health and safety risk as well as incidents. In practical terms, this means fewer accidents, safer employees and subcontractors, as well as fewer disruptions and more efficient operations.

Great progress has been made in health and safety at work, but we believe that there is still much that can be done. And that is where technology and especially the Kiri Align software comes in to help Australian employers manage a more safe and efficient workplace.

Kiri Align removes much of the administrative work with data collection in connection with audits, and such many of the daily requirements that operational personnel previously had the task of managing have become obsolete. The result is a smoother and more efficient data analysis and reporting process.

Previously document-heavy health and safety methodology with accident investigation and root cause analysis, behavior-based safety observations, and incident reporting can now be done much faster, which enables better data collection overall and better analysis.

Takeaway:

In an ever-changing world, you need a health and safety solution that can keep up. Free up your time for more important tasks. Conduct health and safety audits for your business without any hassle while ensuring the protection of your employees, patrons, or property.

With Kiri Align software solution businesses can conduct hassle-free health and safety audits for various business operations, assets, and sites.

And it even gets more interesting: inspectors no longer have to visit each site, but can pull up the information from anywhere in the world which will save your time and money.

As a business owner, wouldn't it be nice to know if your grounds are in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act? Keep your business safe and compliant. Sign up for free now.

Conclusion

By creating, implementing and actively participating in proactive and streamlined health and safety audits, organisations can collectively evaluate and better control the risks in their workplaces.

It is crucial that business leaders set precedents for such programs and ensure that they receive the high level of attention they need. Team leaders need to clarify direction, motivate participation, and help tailor audits to the organisation's overall goals and visions.

Published by: Kiri Align