Why should you conduct regular safety audits?
Regular safety audits are an important element of any effective workplace health and safety program. An effective work safety audit program verifies that your safety systems and safety procedures are working. Safety audits also identify where there are any opportunities for improvement in your work methods, hazard identification, safety procedures, risk assessments and general business practices.
Regular safety audits can be conducted to evaluate:
- Your own safe working standards/practices;
- Compliance with an Industry Code of Practice
- Compliance with a legislative framework;
- Compliance with a known safety systems standard such as ISO 45001 [i]
- Compliance with a technical product safety standard.
Regular safety audits can be conducted internally by your own trained staff or externally by a reputable independent consultant such as Safetysure. There are advantages and disadvantages of both internal and external audits.
Who should undertake safety audits?
Having your own staff undertake regular safety audits increases awareness and engenders internal support for your work safety program. Your own employees will know the work processes and equipment generally better than an external auditor but, they may only know the issues in the context of your organisation’ environment. Sometimes internal audits result in a “Can’t see the wood from the trees type syndrome” where people find it difficult to identify work safety issues in their own workplaces simply because of the familiarity aspects.
At other times, the perception of fear of reporting a safety issue in the context of organisational relationships results in under-reporting. This occurs where a lower level employee undertakes a safety audit and identifies a safety related issue which may impact that employee’s relationship with their supervisor or other manager in the company. A regular work safety audit completed by an independent safety expert alleviates this problem.
There are clear advantages of having an independent safety audit of your workplace. These include:
- independence from the organisational politics and chain of command type hierarchies (that often result in under reporting within a workplace health and safety program);
- independent evaluation of the conditions against industry codes, standards and legislative requirements;
- the “fresh eyes” approach where a safety auditor does not have any pre-conceived value on safety compliance within the organisation.
- The safety auditors experience in undertaking audits across other industry sites and with that, the auditor’s ability transfer their significant learnings of best safety practice approaches to safety management to your organisation.
The disadvantages of external safety audits may include:
- The competence of the auditor undertaking the safety audit;
- The framework that the auditor uses to undertake the safety audit;
- The familiarity of the auditor with your organisation (particularly if they have completed safety audits before and are known to staff)
- Additional costs of external safety auditing (which are often outweighed by the outcomes of having and external auditor);
Why establish regular safety audits?
Regular safety audit programs are normally established according to an organisation’s risk profile and risk appetite with higher risk industries undertaking daily (and in extreme risk scenarios cases hourly)work safety audits to evaluate compliance status. We also recognise that work safety audit compliance is a journey rather than a destination, and success of safety audit programs will often be dependent on the organisation’s maturity level in respect of the safety system and the workplace health and safety program implemented.
A regular safety audit can ensure that your work safety journey heads in the right direction. There are a range of critical factors in determining the frequency of the regular safety audit, who will complete the audit and what your expected outcomes of the audit may be. By undertaking workplace safety audits on regular basis you will build a platform to improve your business, the health and well-being of your staff and mitigate risks of litigation and other regulatory compliance issues.
[i]ISO 45001 is an ISO standard for management systems of occupational health and safety in the workplace. It was first published in March 2018.
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