Business & compliance advice

What is a Health and Safety Audit, and why have one?

19th May 2023

A health and safety audit is an expert assessment of an organisation’s health and safety policies, systems and procedures.

A health and safety audit is an expert assessment of an organisation’s health and safety policies, systems and safety procedures.

A health and safety audit will usually cover the following areas:

  • Health and safety policy and procedures

  • Risk assessment

  • Training and communication

  • Accident and incident reporting

  • Investigations

  • Corrective and preventive actions

  • Records

The audit will be conducted by a qualified health and safety auditor who will use a variety of methods to gather evidence, including interviews, observations, and document reviews. The auditor will then produce a report that identifies any areas where the organisation can improve its health and safety management system.

What are the benefits of a health and safety audit?

Regular health and safety audits are widely recognised as best practice for all types of organisations. Audits are much more than just a box-ticking exercise or defensive measure, they can bring about positive benefits to businesses.

Primarily, audits enable you to protect employees, customers and visitors from harm. But, ultimately, a professionally conducted audit can also safeguard the existence of the company. That’s because a serious incident could result in prosecutions, severe reputational damage and financial penalties.

There are many benefits to conducting regular health and safety audits, including:

1. Improved health and safety performance: By identifying and addressing any areas where the organisation can improve, audits can help to prevent accidents and injuries, improve employee morale, and reduce costs.

2. Compliance with health and safety regulations: Audits can help to ensure that the organisation is complying with all applicable health and safety regulations. This can help to protect the organization from fines and other penalties.

3. Reduced risk of litigation: By identifying and addressing any potential hazards, audits can help to reduce the risk of litigation. This can save the organisation time, money, and reputation.

4. Improved employee morale: Employees are more likely to feel safe and secure in a workplace where health and safety is a priority. This can lead to improved morale and productivity.

5. Enhanced reputation: A good health and safety record can enhance an organisation's reputation and make it more attractive to customers and investors.

Why have a health and safety audit?

No organisation is legally obliged to undergo a health and safety compliance audit.

Nevertheless, companies of all types and sizes consider regular audits to be essential.

Here are 5 Reasons why you should conduct a health and safety audit:

1. Health and safety audits reveal much more than just what is going wrong. They also highlight successes and enable employers to praise the people who are getting it right.

2. Setting up a safety audit system doesn't just protect employees and customers from injury and illness. It motivates staff by showing them that their employer is serious about their well-being.

3. A correctly conducted safety audit can safeguard a company’s assets. A serious health and safety incident can lead to unfavourable publicity that damages trade.

4. When the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brings prosecutions for health and safety breaches, they invariably cite failures that an audit would have highlighted. Prosecutions can lead to enormous fines and legal costs, even imprisonment.

5. Every employer is legally obliged to have a health and safety policy in place. This should be in writing if there are five or more employees. Without an audit, it's impossible to be sure that your policy is fit for purpose. So, as well as a health and safety policy, you need a safety audit policy.

What does a typical health and safety policy look like?

A health and safety policy sets out how the business intends to manage health and safety, stating clearly who does what, when, and how in three sections.

  • Statement of intent, outlining the company's health and safety goals.

  • Specific health and safety responsibilities of management and employees, listing names, positions and roles.

  • Existing health and safety issues at the business and what practical measures are in place to ensure that these issues are addressed e.g. doing a risk assessment, training employees, and using safety signs or equipment.

Under The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), a company's health and safety policies must be frequently reviewed and assessed. What’s more, all employees must be fully informed of any changes made.

The experts at Phoenix can help you identify your health and safety issues and write a clear, concise and practical health and safety policy.

What does a health and safety audit cover?

A typical OHS audit (occupational health and safety) will look like the following:

Planning: The auditor will first need to plan the audit. This will involve identifying the scope of the audit, the objectives of the audit, and the resources that will be needed.

Preparation: The auditor will then need to prepare for the audit. This will involve gathering information about the organisation, such as its health and safety policies and procedures, and its accident and incident history.

Audit: The auditor will then conduct the audit. This will involve interviewing employees, observing work activities, and reviewing documents.

Reporting: The auditor will then report on the findings of the audit. This report will identify any areas where the organisation can improve its health and safety performance.

Follow-up: The auditor will then follow up on the findings of the audit. This will involve ensuring that the organisation has implemented any necessary corrective actions.

Should I use an external auditor, or can I audit in-house?

Health and safety audits can be internal or external. They can be conducted by a member of staff or by external independent consultants, such as Phoenix.

What is an internal audit?

To conduct an internal audit, you require at least one team member who, in the words of the regulations, is a 'competent person.’

The law describes a competent person as “someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly.” Therefore, the safest way to ensure your internal audit has been properly conducted is to appoint a team member with appropriate qualifications.

Your competent person should have the relevant health and safety training or qualifications, such as a  NEBOSH Diploma or NEBOSH Certificate. We offer courses via our e-learning platform, ideal for employees who wish to earn a health and safety certificate online.

The main advantage of having an in-house audit is greater control over the process. For example, it can take place in stages to minimise disruption. Often, it’s also a lower-cost alternative - although an unsuitable internal audit could end up costing your business far more than you save.

Furthermore, an effective internal audit can be a useful management tool. It enhances everyone’s understanding of how the business is performing and highlights any potential problems.

What is an external H&S audit?

An external health and safety audit is the gold standard.

Phoenix audits are conducted according to the requirements of UK law. This includes the principles detailed in the HSE's authoritative health and safety audit template (HSE Best Practice Document HSG65).

A further benefit of turning the task over to independent experts, like us, is the opportunity to benchmark your organisation against its peers and competitors. We do this by using recognised standards, such as BS OHSAS 18001 and ISO 39001.

How often should a Health and Safety Audit be carried out?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the frequency of health and safety audits will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organisation, as well as the risks involved in the work. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that organisations carry out health and safety audits at least once a year.

Why work with Phoenix?

Our qualified safety auditors can tailor audits to organisations of any type or size. 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, so they have the essential qualifications and skills.

For more information on our health and safety audits service, get in touch.