At the present time, there is no legislative requirement to conduct safety audits. However, all companies are legally required to provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work, and safety audits are an excellent method of demonstrating and testing this obligation.
A safety audit will ensure appropriate systems are in place to identify health and safety concerns, and that actions are taken to prevent them causing harm. Conducting a safety audit will provide a reasonably comprehensive over view of your systems, processes and level of compliance.
Your safety audit should:
- Provide accurate and succinct information on the status of your safety program
- Provide clear practical recommendations for addressing any identified deficiencies
- Contribute to satisfying due diligence for both managers and the organisation
- Identify areas for continuous improvement.
A robust audit will review your company’s systems, the work environment and key work practices.
What Standard to Use?
Safety audits assess what strategies and programs your company has in place, and whether the workforce is following these procedures and programs. “But”, you ask, “what standard should you be assessing and developing these procedures against”? Various options exist, including: SafetyMAP, AS4801, National Audit Tool, and self-developed audit tools.
When deliberating what tool to use, consider what your organisation’s motivations and goals are. For example; liability and compliance, commercial implications, contractual or customer requirements, or continual improvement of your system.
Most importantly you need to be willing to put resources into completing corrective actions after the audit is complete.
Regardless of which standard you decide to use, the key elements your system must have are:
- All procedures must be documented in writing;
- Procedures must be communicated and relevant personnel trained in their use / maintenance;
- Regular checks, measurement and reviews of your system must be conducted;
- Have a process to manage changes; and
- Systems should be integrated into existing business practices.
What is Safety Certification?
A safety certification audit must be conducted by specialist qualified auditors who will issue a certificate, upon successful completion of the audit. This audit will be conducted to a set audit criteria (e.g. AS4801), and the company must successfully satisfy all items of the audit tool to become certified. Certification is a requirement for self-insured companies and some business ventures as it verifies the level that your safety system meets. However, these audits will not necessarily assist your business in moving beyond the certification requirements.
Timing and Frequency of Audits:
Internal audits (conducted by the organisation itself) aim to assess effectiveness and adherence to own systems. We recommend that this is conducted at least annually.
External audits (usually conducted by an independent third party) to ensure standard compliance, should be conducted every 3 to 5 years based on your business risk level.
An overall audit program may include one or more audits, depending on the size and complexity of the organisation and chosen scope. A full certification audit can take up to and over a week on a single site, whilst compliance or a program audit of your systems and your key needs can typically be completed in a single day for one site.
Where your company has various sites, you will need to develop an audit program that assesses each one, over an appropriate period of time, whilst ensuring that you obtain a good representative sample size of sites, annually.
What to Look for in an Auditor
Auditors have been trained in these essential skills:
- Have thorough and comprehensive knowledge about applicable legislations and standards, including the required audit tool;
- Will be diplomatic, and able to communicate with persons in various positions, circumstances and situations;
- Be adaptable and flexible to working in a way which suits your people, business and any changes that may occur.
As an additional bonus, Safety Action auditors also happen to have approachable personalities and keen eyes for detail.
If you are having difficulty developing your safety system or don’t know where your opportunities for improvement lie, chances are you have not conducted a needs analysis by completing an audit. This process can assist you to determine your needs and priorities.
The Safety Action team are highly experienced in conducting independent audits and would appreciate the opportunity discuss how we can help you. Please call our team on (03) 9690 6311.