What is a health and safety audit, and why have one?

A health and safety audit is an expert assessment of an organisation’s health and safety policies, systems and procedures. Questions it answers include: Are they correct and delivering the expected outcomes? Are they protecting the well being of the workforce and keeping the company compliant with the relevant regulations?
Health and Safety Audit

"Are we legally obliged to conduct a health and safety audit?" is the first thing many people want to know. The short answer is “No”. But a longer and more helpful answer is "You’re not legally obliged to, but it’s highly recommended."

Regular health and safety audits are widely recognised as best practice for companies of every type and size. Much more than just a box ticking exercise or defensive measure, they can bring many positive benefits to the business.

Primarily, audits enable you to protect employees and customers from harm. But ultimately a correctly conducted audit can also safeguard the very existence of the company. That’s because a serious health and safety incident and resulting prosecution can bring severe reputational damage and massive financial penalties.

When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brings prosecutions for health and safety breaches, they almost invariably cite failures that an audit would have highlighted.

The audit in detail

A typical health and safety audit will cover:

  • Documentation: checking that you have suitable health and safety policies, process documents and suitable arrangements for harmful substances in place
  • Interviews with managers, heads of departments, and ‘shop floor’ personnel (who often have invaluable insights based on everyday working experience)
  • Checking whether policies are being adhered to
In-house or outsourced?

Health and safety audits can be internal or external, conducted by a member of your staff, or by external independent consultants such as Phoenix. So what’s the difference and which option should you choose?

Internal

To conduct an internal audit you require at least one team member with the right training and qualifications – a NEBOSH diploma or certificate. The main advantage of the in-house option is greater control over the process. It can take place in stages, for example, to minimise disruption. Often it’s also a lower cost alternative - although an unsuitable internal audit is the classic false economy.

Furthermore, an effective internal audit can be a very useful management tool, enhancing everyone’s understanding of how the business is performing, and highlighting potential problems.

External

An external health and safety audit is the gold standard, in line with the HSE Best Practice Document (HSG65) which specifies an “independent assessment of your safety management systems”. The main benefit of turning the task over to independent experts such as Phoenix is the opportunity to benchmark your organisation against its peers and rivals, using recognised standards such as BS OHSAS 18001 or ISO 39001.

Why work with Phoenix?

Our qualified safety auditors can tailor the audit to any type or size of organisation. Once the assessment has been completed, we produce a prioritised action plan with detailed recommendations for required improvements. And, of course, if you prefer to conduct internal audits, we can help you train your team members so they have the essential qualifications and skills.