An all too common issue in small to medium enterprises (SME) is a lack of proper understanding of health and safety compliance. Whether in the start-up phase or growth phase, many SME don’t have the background, knowledge or experience to establish and regularly maintain their safety management system to ensure compliance. One proactive way SMEs can ensure their current safety practices are compliant is by conducting a safety audit.
A safety audit can generally be defined as:
‘a systematic and independent examination to determine whether safety activities and related outcomes comply with planned arrangements and where these arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve objectives’
The fundamental purpose of an audit is to identify gaps in an organisations safety management system and close the gaps that could lead to subsequent failures. A comprehensive audit should identify and eliminate the failed systems or processes that could cause an accident or injury. The audit would do this by ensuring that appropriate management arrangements, adequate risk control systems and appropriate precautionary measures and processes are in existence, implemented and consistent with the risk to which workers are exposed.
Safety audits differ from inspections in that inspections do not usually assess the human factor. An inspection may identify that a first aid kit is in place and is fully stocked however, an audit will ask questions about who knows where the first aid kit is located, who has been trained in first aid, is the level of training suitable to the workplace, is the first aid kit suitable for the risks to be found in the workplace.
Inspections are usually performed by an individual whereby audits involve multiple people from across an organisation.
Common elements assessed during a safety audit can include the following:
- to determine if Health and Safety programs and procedures are working
- to verify if employees and management are engaged in your safety programs
- to verify if processes comply with company policies and procedures
- to verify compliance with legislation
- to determine if health and safety activities are being documented properly
- to discover and identify potential hazards
- to evaluate effectiveness of existing management and supervision controls
- to check the safety of your work site/workplace
- to check the safety of your equipment
- to evaluate the adequacy of your supervisors’ safety training and performance
- to evaluate the adequacy of your workers’ safety training and performance
Safety audits can be conducted on a voluntary or required basis by knowledgeable and experienced professionals who will assist in reducing personnel risk and ensure compliance with legislative and best-practice requirements.
Safety audits and inspections have been shown to reduce the number of accidents, which benefits business and their workers. It is better to be proactive with safety rather than waiting for an accident to happen. If you lack the resources to do safety audits and inspections in-house, you can outsource these to a safety consultancy like Intrinsic Safety.