Using Your Health and Safety Audit as a Tool for SME Success
The average business performs independent accounting audits two to four times a year. Health and safety audits get only a fraction of that attention despite the fact that your most valuable assets are made of skin and cells. These important assessments protect far more than your accountant ever will. They assess every human aspect of your business, from your workplace efficiencies to injury risks. No safety plan is complete without one, so if you’re about to create your first, an audit is the best first step you’ll ever take. It will weigh up your existing assets and discover efficiencies you’re not yet aware of.
Defining Health and Safety Audits
Studies have found that there are 142 job-related deaths every year in the UK alone. A culture of safety goes a long way towards creating a dent in those numbers. Audits are usually conducted by independent parties, who assess workplace risks that could put your workers in danger. Their ultimate goal is to ensure regulatory compliance, but the effects can also boost your profits. The data they generate can push you towards a more efficient and effective process. Internal audits are thus well worthwhile. Audit checklists usually include several key questions:
- Is your safety manual up to date?
- Does your management team understand their health and safety duties?
- Are you doing enough safety checks?
- Are you using a valid fire risk policy?
- Is your health and safety reporting system functional?
The process is broken down into several steps:
- Site visits to assess employee risk
- Recording on-site observations
- Identifying the weaknesses and strengths of your health and safety policy in action
- Ranking problems in order of their priority
- Assessing performance review systems
- Implementing harm prevention programs and removing safety hazards
Health and safety audits don’t exist to make your life difficult. They act as a comprehensive resource that helps you to achieve a more efficient workplace. Even a bad audit is valuable, provided you treat it as a means to a better end. Your range score can tell you little, but if you scrutinize your audit and its content, you can carry your workspace to new heights of efficiency.
How Health and Safety Audits Save Lives
Your existing workplace is a veritable treasure trove of information, even if it’s never been audited before. Examine it in enough detail, and you’ll find out where mistakes are happening and how PPE programs are failing. Only once you’ve identified the hazards can you find out which processes and equipment can minimise them best.
Frequent health and safety audits drive compliance behaviour in much the same way that clinical trials drive drug efficacy: by identifying what works and writing off what doesn’t. Think of each audit as the rung of a ladder. Once you’ve climbed it, you’re in a better position to take the next jump. Each improvement provides the data required to take your safety to an entirely new level, so regularity is as important as one-time compliance. A structured audit gives you the data you need to create evidence-based changes, but a regular audit is even more powerful.
The Importance of Consistency
Without work systems and safety policies in place, chaos is quick to unfold, and that leads to mistakes. Independent audits hold you to a single consistent practice for one reason: Consistency saves lives, so never underestimate the importance of a simple checklist. The more constancy you foster, the safer your workplace will become. The more structure you have, the higher your productivity levels will soar.
Regular audits make it clear to your staff that safety and compliance are recurring objectives. This will foster urgency and prevent relaxed standards. Your employees are some of your greatest assets in this area. They often spot problems that supervisors fail to notice, so including them in your audits builds objectivity into the process. When you make them a part of your assessment, you also train them on your current safety standards. This way, you always have human assets on the ground who can teach your team more about compliance. The benefits are too impressive to waste, so it’s time to invest in your own internal audits. They will drive a more efficient and profitable workplace.
Data and Technology
In the digital age, apps have become a key part of the auditing process. Tech solutions can drive a culture of safety while plumbing your workplace for data. They can even identify problematic tools and required PPE. Software brings all your compliance functions into a single core hub, combining awareness training, risk analysis, accident reporting, and logbooks under a single umbrella. With your data taken out of independent silos, you can find out how each category affects the next. This way, you can identify problems that are invisible in manual audits.
Merely combining your risk assessment templates in the digital realm can expose unexpected hazards. When spikes appear, you have the monitoring tools required to explain them. Digital accident reporting has a similar effect. When near misses can be added to your in-depth overview, you can prevent problems long before they evolve into catastrophes. Similarly, checks and tests can be integrated into your everyday system, triggering automatic alerts before chaos strikes.
No audit can achieve much without thorough recordkeeping, and software can support this as well. Every time you add new data to your digital records, you make room for more advanced analytics. Perceptive auditing apps bring state of the art monitoring to SMEs in a more scalable way, allowing you to create the infrastructure you will rely on when you ultimately grow into a larger business.
Systematic log entry support can alert you when you’re due for alarm services, drills, and fire equipment maintenance. Smartphone integration allows supervisors to carry important data everywhere they go.
The word “audit” can terrify business owners. The entire concept is weighed down by negative connotations, many of which it doesn’t deserve. Health and safety audits can save you money and push your business into a more fact-based realm. They free you from second guesses and support a more evidence-based system. More importantly, they save lives.
To discover more about the health and safety audit services we offer, get in touch, or call us on 01244 535705.