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Why your business needs a health and safety audit

As any business owner knows, it can be all too easy to feel that one is getting wrapped up in red tape. So it’s not surprising that there is a temptation to focus on the mandatory requirements of running a business and give less priority to the voluntary ones.

10/01/2022

As any business owner knows, it can be all too easy to feel that one is getting wrapped up in red tape. So it’s not surprising that there is a temptation to focus on the mandatory requirements of running a business and give less priority to the voluntary ones.

It’s a fact that all businesses have to comply with the health and safety regulations that are in force at any particular time. But, beyond this, it is also an employer’s moral obligation to take all the steps possible to keep employees and anyone with who they do business as safe as they possibly can.

A health and safety audit is simply a way to frequently check that everything is as it should be. In the words of the Health and Safety Executive an audit is for, ”A collection of independent information on the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the total health & safety management system and drawing up plans for corrective action.”

There are a number of elements to an audit and these generally cover:

  • Checking of all the relevant documentation to see that you have suitable health and safety policies in place for your particular working environment and the sorts of tasks that your staff need to carry out.
  • Interviewing staff at every level to get their personal insights into the working conditions as well as identifying areas of concern or in need of improvement.
  • Examining whether your business’s health and safety policy is being covered.

Structuring the audit

While there are many templates that are freely available for carrying out an audit, it might not always be easy to find one that perfectly fits your particular business. This is why it’s best the structure and create your own. It might sound like a major task but by breaking it down into a series of steps it can soon seem much more manageable. Here is a typical 9-stage plan.

  1. Hold an initial meeting with all relevant members of staff to agree how the audit will be carried out.
  2. Conduct the audit by going round the premises and assessing where the risks are, as well as interviewing key members of staff.
  3. Record all observations in note form.
  4. Pinpoint what the business is doing well, and what needs improvement.
  5. Rank the risks identified in descending order of seriousness.
  6. Create the audit report.
  7. Develop an action plan to reduce or eliminate the risks that have been identified.
  8. Eliminate the risks or reduce them to an acceptable level.
  9. Hold a wash-up meeting to assess how the next audit procedure can be improved.

It’s also important to mention here that all businesses with more than five employees also need to have a written health and safety policy in place. Any audit should also examine this closely and ensure that it is fully compliant and fit for purpose.

Who should carry out the audit?

To comply with the HSE regulations, the person carrying out the audit should be a “competent person”. This is someone who has enough training, knowledge and experience to do a thorough job. To achieve this status they should have received the right level of training in health and safety regulations and, ideally, also hold a qualification or diploma from the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH).

There are certain advantages to holding an internal audit. The first of these is that you can have greater control over when and how it’s going to be carried out. It’s also a lower-cost alternative to using an external assessor.

A further plus is that it can prove to be a useful management tool that will increase employees’ understanding of health and safety issues as well as highlighting the business’s commitment to addressing them.

On the other hand, using an expert external assessor can bring a fresh pair of eyes to a workplace which may help to spot risks that may otherwise go un-noticed. You will also be confident that the auditors are fully versed in the very latest health and safety legislation.

The real benefits to you and your business

There are many benefits that a business can enjoy through carrying out a rigorous health and safety audit, although some are less obvious than others.

Obviously, top of the list is that it can identify areas of non-compliance and give you time to rectify them before they result in serious consequences. It’s generally true that when accidents do occur and the HSE steps in to investigate, it’s been caused by an issue that would have been picked up by an audit.

Serious failures can lead to large fines and costs – and even prison sentences for people held responsible – so they’re well-worth avoiding. There’s also the huge reputational damage that can occur, definitely not to be recommended if you want to protect your company’s assets.

There are additional, softer benefits that can both improve employee morale and improve loyalty. They allow you to identify what’s going right, as well as going wrong, and be in a position to praise the people who are responsible for maintaining the good practices. It also shows that there is a conscious commitment to treating employees well and having a genuine concern for their well-being.

At Sentient, we have many years combined experience of witnessing all these benefits first hand in businesses that we have helped. From providing H&S training to carrying out independent audits, we offer a comprehensive range of services for many different sectors. So, if you’d like to find out more about how we could help with any aspect of your H&S needs, just contact us today.

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