auditors are observers, they should use a health and safety audit template

Auditors are often represented in fiction as cold and aloof. The wonderfully mysterious Observers from American tv series Fringe are characterised thus: otherworldly men in hats and suits who stand on street corners in pairs. They watch silently from another dimension, unseen, never interfering and occasionally writing illegible stuff in books.

These days, thankfully, the role of the auditor is less demonised. And for this post, we will go into the role of the safety auditor. As you are searching for a health and safety audit template, one can presume that you intend to join our mysterious ranks and become a safety auditor. We’ll talk you through the audit process and advise you what to look out for when observing your workplace and improving your safety management system.

Why do auditors get such a bad rep?

Perhaps it’s because people see an audit as an exercise in dishing out blame, finding fault and picking up on mistakes. Actually, this isn’t the case. A good audit should give an impartial analysis of what is working well and what needs improvement.  It’s not all doom and gloom.

The purpose of a health and safety audit, in general terms, is to improve your safety management system, to pick up on non-conformances and iron them out before they cause problems. More about management systems coming up in our blog. You can subscribe to our blog by registering below. We’ll send you regular updates on the  safety problems most commonly experienced by management.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a pre-audit clear out? You know: “We’ve got an audit today, clear up your workspace! Get that storage tidied! Why’s your door propped open with a fire extinguisher?”

Often, when the date of an audit is known, every effort is put into ensuring that no operational hair is out of place. Whilst this shows a business at its best, it is not reflective of how the business operates on a day-to-day basis. How are you supposed to learn and improve when all you can see are your business’ good points?

Different types of health and safety audit

Internal audit – someone within your business undertakes the audit to review how your safety management system is performing. As you are looking for health and safety audit templates, let’s say this is you. You could look at the performance of your management system across the whole site, or look at specific areas of your site. E.g. someone reviews your building for safety performance and general compliance to internal standards and / or legal requirements. Or, perhaps trends have showed potential non-compliance issues in one particular building on your site.

External audit – could be an audit by an external company (e.g. consultant) requested by you to provide an objective view of safety performance in your business. Alternatively, you could have a certification audit to assess your safety management system against known standards (e.g. OHSAS 18001 or the upcoming ISO 45001).

How to undertake a health and safety audit

Firstly, it should be stressed that if you are carrying out a workplace audit for health and safety, you should be competent to do so. If you are not confident in your safety knowledge, check out these training courses to ensure that you or the person carrying out the audit is suitably knowledgeable and qualified.

You can audit a particular area of safety, a particular part of your site, a specific activity, or a full management system. Each of which could have a different scope.

Regardless of what you are auditing, and what type of health and safety audit template you are following, here’s an example process for undertaking an audit:

process for undertaking an audit, to use along with a health and safety audit template
  1. Define the scope of your audit. Agree this with the individuals hosting the audit.
  2. Request info or documentation relevant to your audit scope. For example, documents relevant to tasks being undertaken, such as risk assessments, procedures for what you are auditing.
  3. Carry out your audit. When doing this you are observing people, talking to people, referring to the documentation you requested prior to the audit and any other relevant documents on the day. Make sure you make notes according to your health and safety audit template, checklist or form.
  4. Finally, write your findings in an audit report. Include the good and practices you find, along with recommendations for improvement.

Remember that when you undertake or host an audit, the auditor will continue to ask questions until he or she is happy that they have the right information.

Create a health and safety audit template

On the subject of whether to use a health and safety audit template or whether to ‘wing it’, here’s what RoSPA has to say:

“A small number of health and safety professionals feel that a health and safety audit should be conducted with an open mind and a blank sheet of paper, rather than assessments forms/auditing checklists. At RoSPA we disagree with this type of audit as it brings into question the audit’s validity, reliability and objectivity.”

If you go into an audit blind, you are likely to miss something, or to scratch only the surface. Instead, the point of your audit is to get some clarity. To dig down to the compliance issues and potential failings of your management system so that you know what’s working and what’s not. An audit is also about understanding your business and its risks and knowing what you need to do to improve safety performance.

Instead of just giving you a generic health and safety audit template that doesn’t reflect your business, we’ll talk you through the process of creating your own specific template.

Here are some suggestions of what to cover when undertaking a full health and safety management system or site audit. Remember to make it specific to your business:

  • Planning – take notes;
  • Risk Management – risk assessments, controls already in place, PPE;
  • Training – Training matrix, employee records, training match roles;
  • Incident Management – review records, confirm completion, actions management;
  • Audits – take notes;
  • Emergency Management – fire checks, emergency exits, assembly point, first aid;
  • Communication of information – to employees, customers and to visitors;
  • Equipment Management – records, maintenance, training, defects, inspections, Pat tests;
  • Visitor Management – sign in/out records, safety briefings;
  • Action Management – take notes;
  • Housekeeping – take notes.

For each of the above sections of your audit note down relevant actions identified.Remember to write it up in an audit report.

Still lost?

If you’re still not sure what to cover in your audit we can help you through the process, or help get you trained up so that you can do it yourself. As safety consultants, we’re not just humourless observers, we actually get involved.

So pick up the phone, call us on 01926 623 133, and let’s have a chat! Or email us. That’s fine too.