Formal occupational health and safety audits should be carried out at regular intervals by trained and competent auditors. The purpose of the safety and health audit is to reduce risks through the review and improvement of the health and safety management system.
Centurion Alba have IOSH trained, competent health and safety auditors and carry out audits in accordance with established standards such as ISO 19011. This article looks at the health and safety audit requirement and the many ways in which our consultancy can help small and medium businesses fulfil their health and safety obligations.
What is a health and safety audit?
The health and safety audit is a deep and critical appraisal of all of, or specific elements of an organisations occupational safety and health management system. This formal audit is in addition to the routine inspections and monitoring carried carried out at a day-to-day operational level.
ISO 19011 defines audit as:
Systematic and independent examinations to determine whether quality activities and related results comply with planned arrangements and whether these arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve objectives.ISO 19011 Guidelines for auditing management systems
The purpose of the health and safety audit is to address a number of key questions:
- is the overall health and safety management system (HSMS) capable of achieving and maintaining the required objectives?
- is the organisation meetings its specified obligations such as statutory compliance?
- what are the the strengths and weaknesses of the HSMS?
- is the organisation actually achieving the standards which its more routine checks would suggest?
- are previous audit outcomes acted upon, communicated and followed up with a drive towards continuous improvement?
- are the audit results used in management reviews?
Sometime audits have an additional outcome which is to allow a company to be formally accredited and authorised to display a certificate of that fact. This is often the case for audits of ISO 45001 occupational health and safety management systems.
How to conduct a health and safety audit
One of the first steps of the audit is the decide and agree upon the scope of the audit. Will this be a review of the entire management system or restricted to a single aspect of it? Next, an audit plan is formulated which specifies the audit objectives, scope, criteria and the roles and responsibilities of the audit team members. This plan will also include detail of the audit logistics such as the timings, locations and duration of audit activities.
The audit itself, will entail the collection and verification of audit evidence. This evidence may be gathered through interviews, by checking documents and records, and observing locations and work activities. Audit evidence can be qualitative or quantitative but in any case it must be verifiable. Audits typically use a sampling strategy to gauge overall performance and the proper planning and implementation of this sampling exercise will be critical toward ensuring confidence in the audit conclusions.
Following the collection and analysis of audit evidence the audit findings will be reviewed against the management systems aims, objectives and procedures, and this can be used to summarise conformity with the audit criteria.
Finally an audit conclusion will be developed and this will take the form of a report addressing issues such as overall conformity with the audit criteria and effectiveness of the management system. If conformity gaps were identified it will state so and it should also address opportunities for improvement. The audit conclusions may lead to recommendations for improvements or future auditing activities.
How often should health and safety audits be carried out?
There is no specified statutory time-frame whereby an audit of an organisations health and safety management system should be carried out. The frequency will be determined by the organisation in question and take account of the nature of the organisations activities, the risks present as well as past performance. An organisation which has experienced poor health and safety performance in the past will requite more frequent auditing.
Where the audit is for the purpose of accreditation, the accrediting organisation may specify a required frequency. For instance, some accrediting organisations will require an annual audit of a ISO 45001 management system.
Who carries out a health and safety audit?
The audit team should be selected whilst taking into account the competence needed to achieve the objectives of the audit in question and its defined scope and audit criteria. Depending upon the nature of the audit, this may require technical experts with suitable and sufficient qualifications, knowledge and experience.
Aside from the technical knowledge of each auditor, it is important to ensure that they are familiar with the audit process and this cannot be ensured with technical knowledge alone. There are a number of formal auditing qualifications and these may be essential in some cases.
Why choose Centurion Alba for your Audit needs?
Centurion Alba’s Chartered Safety & Health Practitioners have a high level of technical knowledge and competence whilst having formal training in the auditing of Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. Our practitioners are IOSH-trained in Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) auditing and are experienced in the audit of health and safety management systems such as OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001.
Contact our friendly advisers today to discuss your needs and how Centurion Alba can help your organisation meet its audit objectives.
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