How to prepare for a Safety Audit
Before a business has engages a Safety Consultant to complete a Safety Audit there are a few things that will make the entire process flow better. This will save time on the auditor’s side and not make the process too rushed and have elements bypassed.
A safety audit is designed to be a comprehensive examination of a workplace’s safety program, procedures, and practices against a defined standard. Its purpose is not to proportion blame but to identify areas where safety can be improved. This process is also to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Safety audits are important for businesses to ensure that they stay on track with their WHS responsibilities. This in turn will assist in reducing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries and protect employees from harm. To ensure a successful safety audit, it’s important to allocate a responsible person to prepare for the audit.
Overview of the Safety Audit process
Preparing for a safety audit can be a daunting task for some but an exciting time for others. Understanding that this process is essential for the checking the systems in place for the safety of your employees and the success of your business. There are key steps for preparing for a safety audit that include understanding the audit process, understanding and reviewing your safety program, preparing documentation and (maybe) conducting a self-audit. In the following sections, we’ll discuss each of these steps to help you get ready for your safety audit. By implementing these steps, your audit goes smoothly, and you can get the most out of it.
Understand the Safety Audit Process
Before you start preparing for a safety audit, it’s important to understand what the audit process you are about to embark on entails. A Safety Consutant can assist with this process and help you through the following steps for the Safety Audit:
- Planning: The auditor will contact you and plan the audit, including discussing the scope, identifying the key areas to be audited, and defining schedules for the audit. The Business should assist in accommodating the scheduling of staff and not rely on hoping the worker is there on the day. Having the person or persons who are to talk to the briefed in the process to as to alleviate any concerns.
- Opening meeting: The auditor should hold an opening meeting with the company’s representatives to explain the audit process. This is also an ideal time to discuss the objectives of the audit and answer any questions relating to the audit.
- Review of documentation: Sometimes this step can before the Safety Auditor attends site and is often called a desktop audit. This will ensure that there is sufficient material and evidence to proves that there are safety systems in place. When at site the auditor will review the company’s safety plans and other relevant documentation. Other documents or entries in software programs include incident reports and hazard assessments.
- On-site inspection: The auditor will commence the on-site inspection of the workplace to identify hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of the safety program. This process is not a process of identifying all the things that do not comply but areas where the systems are working, and risk is being reduced or eliminated.
- Interviews: The auditor may hold formal interviews with employees (usually supervisors) to assess their understanding of the safety program and identify any areas of concern. This process can be casual questioning that is often in plain communication language. This is often the most useful as often employees may feel intimidated by the process.
- Closing meeting: This is the time the auditor discusses the findings of the audit. This is also a good time for employees to question the position of the Auditor as there may have been a miscommunication of information. Usually, the auditor may provide general recommendations for improvement, but usually the report prepared from the Audit will have all the specific recommendations.
It’s important to note that this is not the exact process and may vary depending on the type of audit and the auditor’s approach. The Scope of the Audit may have been agreed with through an external provider (Safety Consultant) with Management and focus more heavily on documentation review, while others may conduct more extensive on-site inspections.
There are generally three different types of Safety Audits:
There are three types of safety audits that a Safety Consultant can assist a business with that include:
- Internal audits: Internal audits are conducted by the company’s own personnel to identify areas for improvement.
- Third-party audits: Third-party audits are conducted by an external auditor, such as a consultant or a certification body, to assess compliance with a particular standard, and
- Regulatory audits: Regulatory audits are conducted by government agencies to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. For more information on the Model WHS Legislation, please visit Safe Work Australia.
It’s important to understand the type of audit you’ll be facing so you can prepare accordingly.
Review Your Safety Program and Prepare Safety Audit Documentation
Before commencing a Safety there should be a process to reviewing your safety program and ensuring that you have gathered all the documentation and organised it into an understandable manner. Documentation is proof and this component critical as it demonstrates that your company has a formal safety program in place. This also show a proactive approach through taking steps to identify and control hazards before they become an issue. This process also helps auditors to test and evaluate the effectiveness of your safety program. This will also show areas where improvement is needed.
Importance of having complete and organised Safety Audit documentation:
Complete and organized Safety Audit documentation will make the process flow and ensure a successful safety audit. If you cannot find the necessary documentation, it may question the Safety System and its effectiveness and would most likely result in a lower audit score. Additionally, incomplete or disorganised documentation will make the audit process more difficult and time-consuming. This will lead to unnecessary stress and delays in receiving the final Safety Audit report.
List of documents that will likely be requested during the Safety Audit, include:
The specific documents that may be requested during a safety audit will often vary depending on the type of audit. Some auditors require mountains of documents whilst others only require proof of a process being completed. this is usually dependent on the level of risk. However, the following documents are commonly requested during safety audits:
- Safety policy statement: A written statement outlining the company’s commitment to workplace safety. This document is often signed by the companies most senior persons and espouses the safety outcomes that they aspire to.
- Safety program manual: A comprehensive document set, including policies, procedures, and guidelines. More often this will be an electronic copy maintained in a document management program. This will make searching and presenting much easier. Then if the Safety Auditor needs a copy, it can simply be emailed or copied to a storage device for later reading.
- Hazard assessments: The WHS Legislation places a heavy burden on this process and there should be documented evidence of assessments that have identified and evaluated potential hazards in the workplace. Again, this may be part of a software program.
- Incident reports: These will be records of workplace accidents, injuries, and near-misses, including investigations and corrective actions taken. Care must be taken to ensure the confidentiality of these records to ensure that person’s names are not linked in any way to the actual data.
- Training records: Again, this will be documentary evidence of employee training on a range of safety related topics. This will include safety policies & procedures, attendance records and training materials. This data is becoming more software driven making it easier to produce and report on.
- Safety inspection reports: Proof is required for scheduled proactive workplace inspections intended to identify and correct potential hazards. These inspections can also demonstrate that things are working as planned.
- Safety committee meeting minutes: Consultation is integral to the development of programs and processes in any company. Having the minutes from meetings of the company’s safety committee will greatly assist in demonstrating discussions about workplace hazards and recommendations for improvement.
Having a complete and organized documentation of your safety program will help ensure a successful safety audit and demonstrate your company’s commitment to workplace safety.
Conduct a Self-Audit Before the Actual Safety Audit
In some instances, there may be a desire to complete a self-audit to help identify areas that need improvement. This will also ensure that you are ready for the actual safety audit. Self-audits can help you identify potential systems failures that may lead to hazards. This will provide an opportunity to correct them before the actual audit takes place. This is not about sweeping things under the carpet but demonstrating a desire to improve.
Preparing for a safety audit is often seen as a daunting task. Employees feel that they are being judged and a low score will reflect on them personally. This is not the case, and the Safety Consultant should elevate these fears well before the actual Safety Audit commences. If you follow the key steps outlined in this article your organisation should be ready for a Safety Audit.
These steps include:
- Understanding the audit process and the different types of audits.
- Having complete and organised documentation, including a list of documents likely to be requested during the audit.
- Conducting a self-audit to identify any potential areas of concern.
- Ensuring that all employees are trained on safety procedures, with ongoing training to reinforce key concepts.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start preparing for your next safety audit. Review the checklist provided in this article, identify any areas of concern, and begin taking steps to address them. By being proactive in your approach to safety, you can help ensure the well-being of your employees and the success of your organisation.
Remember, safety is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. By making safety a priority in your organisation, you can help ensure the health and safety of your employees, improve productivity, and reduce costs associated with accidents and injuries in the workplace.
For more information on the safety training services we provide, please check out our Training Events page for upcoming training events being completed inhouse. Alternatively, one of our experienced safety consultants can go to your organisation and deliver the training.
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