How an audit can improve your business’s safety management – and your bottom line
By Jeff Salton
Let’s be honest … no one volunteers to conduct an audit of their business because it’s fun. We understand, totally. But as part of your health and safety obligations, you must conduct regular audits of your business to help identify health and safety risks, and consider ways of improving your safety systems.
What is an audit?
An audit is a documented process for reviewing a health and safety system, program or practice to determine whether it complies with legislative requirements, established guidelines and best practice in health and safety.
This is extremely important in the case of an unfortunate safety incident at your workplace.
Audits are generally conducted annually and can involve a significant amount of work.
What’s the purpose of an audit?
A motivating factor for you to conduct an audit should be that a safer workplace results in a more productive workplace and a more productive workplace usually results in a more profitable workplace. So, what’s good for your workers is also good for business.
Also, the purpose of an audit is to:
- assist in the continuous improvement of your business’s health and safety procedures;
- determine whether workplace legislative requirements are being complied with;
- identify strengths and weaknesses in your business’s safety system, and recommend improvements; and
- assess whether adequate resources are being provided to manage health and safety, and whether they are being used effectively.
Who can conduct an audit?
Audits can be conducted by appropriately trained internal staff. However, it is sometimes necessary to have an external third party conduct the audit, for example, when auditing areas that require specialist knowledge, such as asbestos management.
Using an external auditor can also provide an objective, independent perspective on your business’s health and safety system.
A note of caution: if you use an external auditor, ensure they are fully qualified, experienced and familiar with the industry that your business operates in.
3 types of audits to consider
There are three different types of audits you may need to conduct in your workplace:
1. Compliance audit
Compliance audits assess the effectiveness of the business’s health and safety practices, and determine whether they comply with legislative standards.
2. Risk-specific audits
Risk-specific audits address the risks that are relevant to your business, e.g. working from heights or working in confined spaces. Risk-specific audits have a narrower focus and test the effectiveness of procedures in controlling the specific risks.
3. Management system audits
Management system audits consider the overall safety systems of your business, including:
- organisational structures;
- planned activities;
- procedures; and
Document the findings of audits to help you to:
- ensure your workplace is applying best practice health and safety;
- determine where safety improvements are required in your business;
- take proactive steps towards improving your business’s safety systems; and
- demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in health and safety.
It’s important to conducts audits properly, otherwise you’re just wasting time and money, and can result in thinking you’re compliant when, in fact, you’re not.
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