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3 benefits of internal health and safety audits

Thursday 2nd May 2019

Three benefits of effective internal health and safety audits

An internal health and safety audit programme that meets the requirements of ISO 45001 can be hugely beneficial to an organisation. This article explores three of these benefits: 

Audits focus on key risks

The ISO 45001 management system requires your organisation to establish an internal audit programme based on the level of risk that hazards pose. This is unlike previous versions of ISO management standards, where there was a more narrowly defined requirement to audit every process.

The internal audit programme should be discussed at a Management Review meeting and agreed with top managers. The audit programme is the ideal platform on which to identify current and future audit requirements. Adopting the risk-based approach will enable you to direct your resources and audit areas of the occupational health and safety system that have higher levels of hazard. These might include:

  • Processes that have been reported in incidents or near-miss events
  • Areas of perceived high risk, but against which no incident or near-miss reports have been identified. This might indicate reporting methodologies are ineffective and an audit will help to clarify the situation
  • Processes that involve persons at higher risk (e.g. young persons, new starters) and as such may require a focus

Whichever audits you decide to do, it is recommended to document the justification within an audit plan.

Audits encourage engagement with workers

The ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety standard acknowledges the success in consulting and participating with workers. This can lead to a reduction in incidents and the development of a positive safety culture.

An effective internal audit programme is a great tool to promote engagement with workers, as it provides the opportunity to explore and test what team members know and understand about safety in their working processes.

The team, whether they are employed or contractors are the best positioned people to provide feedback and information on hazards and controls, so an audit provides a structure to a conversation that may not have happened otherwise. Furthermore, because audits are reported to the leadership team, they can promote discussions that lead to additional allocation of resources, reduction in risks and development of opportunities.

Internal audits give you fresh eyes

Internal audits should be completed by individuals that do not have responsibility for the area being investigated. This level of independence is useful because the ‘fresh eyes’ can often generate interest and enthusiasm from workers who are happier to explain processes to unfamiliar faces.

Using someone independent to do the audit also reduces the risk of complacency as they will not take issues for granted.

In summary, internal audits can provide opportunities to review documented information such as work instructions and safe systems of work. Audit results should be discussed locally within the areas being audited, and also more widely with Safety committees and management review teams. Occupational Health and Safety audits can be integrated within existing Quality or Environmental Management system audits; all of these actions can help to embed safety into the culture of the business.

Related Articles

What's in ISO 45001
Safely managing contractors ISO 45001

Alister Constantine - Director

Alister has worked within small, medium and large manufacturing industries for most of his career implementing and maintaining quality, environment and safety management systems. He has adopted a practical approach to implementing robust management systems which provides assurance for both employees and stakeholders.

Alister is a graduate in Occupational Health and Safety and holds additional professional qualifications in quality and environmental management.

We hope this article has been helpful

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