If there is one thing that matters above all else at your organisation’s premises, it is health and safety – encompassing the health and safety of your employees, as well as that of anyone who may come into contact with your site.
But the highest level of health and safety within a workplace – which is something to which every organisation can and must aspire – does not happen by itself. It arises due to a steadfast commitment to devising and implementing effective safety guidance and procedures.
In other words, no responsible organisation can presume that their health and safety practices are up to scratch, just because there might not have been an adverse health and safety event on their site for a long time.
And the right health and safety audits will aid your organisation’s efforts to ensure you have the best possible safety measures in place, and that the agreed-upon processes are actually being followed.
What is a health and safety audit checklist?
A safety audit checklist is a document that organisations use to help ensure their premises are in compliance with the relevant health and safety standards for their industry.
This document will aid your business’s efforts to identify any possible dangers or risks on your site, so that you can take action in relation to these to optimise the health and safety of your workplace.
Who needs a health and safety audit checklist?
Some organisations may not conduct health and safety audits very often. So, if it has been a long time since there were any incidents at your workplace that involved someone being hurt, you might be tempted to ask how necessary such audits are for your business.
The reality is that every business needs to carry out health and safety audits, which means that every business needs a safety audit checklist.
For example, even though health and safety audits are not a legal requirement for companies in and of themselves, it is highly recommended that they are used as a means of regulating your organisation’s compliance with compulsory safety legislation, such as The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
In determining just how crucial a health and safety audit – and therefore, a safety audit checklist – is for your organisation, it is useful to ask, “would my business pass a safety audit if it was conducted today?”
Remember that regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could carry out on-the-spot inspections at your premises, and issue costly fines if areas of non-compliance are discovered. This makes it a good idea to have regular internal safety audits conducted at your organisation, to help you identify and address these issues as early as possible.
What are the key elements of a safety audit?
If you are unsure where to start when you are looking to conduct a health and safety audit at your premises, following these five steps will help you carry out such an audit effectively.
Step 1: Preparing for an audit
Before you carry out the actual audit, you will need to determine who will be performing the audit, and what the team will be auditing.
You might choose to hire an external health and safety consultant who specialise in safety auditing, or you might decide to assemble an internal auditing team, consisting of people from across different parts of your organisation.
If you take the latter route, regardless of who is on the team, it is vital to ensure everyone has been trained in how to carry out the audit, so that they are well-informed on the necessary tasks.
Step 2: Conducting the audit
With a team in place, it is time to initiate the audit itself, which will need to gauge not only what is already working well at your organisation as far as health and safety is concerned, but also what may need to be improved.
It will therefore be important during the audit to review written plans, procedures, and other documents. This, in turn, will enable auditors to compare the written process with what is actually happening within the organisation.
Whether your business’s audit team uses a checklist during the audit or simply takes notes from its observations, you need to ensure you use a method that works effectively for capturing the necessary information.
Step 3: Creating an audit report and recommended actions
Once the audit itself is complete, the audit team will need to compile all its notes into a report that summarises its findings. The review should cover the audited areas, as well as who carried out the audit, and who was interviewed as part of the audit process.
The audit report should be objective and concise, with both positive and negative findings covered. It should also reflect the findings and perspective of everyone in the audit team.
Alongside details of the findings, the complete audit report should set out recommended actions and areas for improvement.
Step 4: Setting corrective action priorities
Particularly if it has been a long time since your organisation last undertook a health and safety audit, your most recent audit may show a need for major corrective actions that simply must be carried out immediately, as well as for minor actions that will simply feed into your business’s ongoing optimisation of health and safety.
Whether the list of required actions is short or long, the likelihood is that you won’t be able to address every single issue straight away. So, it will be necessary for the audit team to work with managers and supervisors to determine the most urgent priority areas for action.
The rule of thumb should be to prioritise action on the items that pose the greatest risk. Once a priority order has been decided on, tasks will need to be assigned, including completion and review dates.
Step 5: Publishing audit results
Finally, it will be time to make the audit results public. Posting your company’s audit results in common areas of your organisation’s premises will help assure your staff that you treat the matter of their safety with the utmost level of seriousness. It will also allow your workers to see the current state of safety at their workplace, and what actions are being taken to improve this.
What to include in your checklist for a safety audit
In the process of preparing to carry out a safety audit at your organisation, you will need to have a good idea of exactly what to include in your company’s checklist.
To ensure the most comprehensive safety audit is undertaken, your checklist will need to enable you to identify risks arising from various aspects of your workplace, including areas like the below:
- Work processes. Even the finest details of the standard processes and procedures at your workplace will go a long way to determining the safety of the working environment for employees. Does your workplace, for instance, have proper ventilation? Is it easy to access personal protective equipment (PPE) at your premises? Is appropriate signage in place to draw attention to potential hazards?
- Fire emergency procedures. Any good health and safety audit will assess what measures are in place to help prevent fires from occurring in the given workplace in the first place, as well as whether there is a clear evacuation plan in case of fire. Furthermore, the audit should consider whether all workers are well-informed on the fire escape plan, and whether fire extinguishers are easily accessible on-site and that staff training is up to date.
- Lighting and electrical systems. Even the lighting in your premises can have a great impact on staff safety. So, the checklist should also account for such things as whether there is emergency lighting at the premises, whether this emergency lighting is subject to regular testing, and whether all parts of the workplace have sufficient light for workers to see and work comfortably by.
- Loading and unloading operations. For organisations that depend on the regular loading and unloading of goods and supplies, attention will need to be paid to the finest details of these procedures, and how safety is ensured at every stage. This is likely to entail looking at such aspects as the condition of any steps, ramps and raised platforms, as well as whether all connections are tight and secure, and loading arms are working correctly.
- Tools and machinery. Some businesses depend greatly on heavy machinery, commercial vehicles, and other tools and equipment that might be particularly relevant to their industry. If this relates to your business, then your safety checklist will need to consider whether such tools and machinery are in working order, as well as whether they meet industry safety standards and employees have access to manufacturers’ manuals for this equipment.
How software can help manage health and safety audits
With health and safety managers needing to ensure compliance whatever it is they manage – potentially encompassing the management of estates, offices and warehouses – the right software will likely greatly help them to accomplish this.
Our own Vision Pro software offers a powerful solution in this regard. It ‘wins’ above alternative platforms and arrangements in that it allows users to set up email alerts to relevant staff and contractors when due dates arrive in relation to compliance or the expiry of warranties.
Vision Pro also allows for certificates and maintenance schedules to be uploaded to an audit, so that everything needed can be kept easily accessible in one place. As a user of this audit management software, you will be able to give the correct access permissions to staff and contractors – in response to which, they will be able to upload their certificates and worksheets to the audit.
Also incorporated into our solution is shared document storage that, even with the transition from your current processes such as the use of hard copies, PDFs, and spreadsheets, will deliver an audit trail.
With our renowned audit management software platform, your organisation can soon be in a much stronger position to exercise the greatest possible control over its audits – and in the process, better optimise its processes that are so critical to keeping your premises safe. Give our team a call today, to learn more about Vision Pro and to book a demo.