How to do a health and safety audit?

How to conduct a health and safety audit: blog introductory imagery

How to do a health and safety audit and keep your people, customers and visitors safe? Effective health and safety management plays an integral part to running a successful business with a happy workforce and happy customers. According to the latest RIDDOR data, 142 workers sadly lost their lives due to a workplace accident in Great Britain in 2020-2021. With an additional 441,000 people suffering non-fatal work-related injuries during the same year.

Breaches of health and safety law can be costly. Not only in terms of court fines but also in sickness absence costs, injury claims and business reputation damage. In fact, the average prosecution fine currently lies at £145,000. Breaches are also evidence of a neglect of the moral duty of care a business owner has to help ensure a safe environment for their people and customers. That’s why health and safety audits are so important to businesses. 

So let’s dig further into how to effectively conduct a health and safety audit that fits your business. This blog will share best practices from our lovely health & safety expert, Reena Appadoo.

Blog contents

Picture and bio of our health and safety expert Reena

What is a health and safety audit?

Who needs it

Health and safety law applies to all businesses. So you might often hear “health and safety is everyone’s business”. Whether you are a restaurant, warehouse, school, care home, mobile food van, hairdresser or any other business, you are legally required to keep your people safe. And that is, your team, customers and contractors alike. In other words, it’s your duty to ensure a safe working environment for the people connected with your business.

About health and safety audits

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to manage your people’s health and safety. Therefore, doing an audit can help you check that the procedures and training you have in place are working well and are effective in identifying new hazards and control measures. Doing health & safety audits is a proactive approach to preventing accidents, incidents and near-misses from happening. Also, it demonstrates due diligence and understanding of the requirements of the main legislation of The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

These audits are best carried out in the form of a checklist with varied scoring methods. At the end, a final score is provided, illustrating  that everything is in place to show legal compliance and to minimise the risks of work-related accidents, incidents and fatalities at your premises. If this isn’t the case, the score will be low and you will be required to carry out next steps to reduce any safety risks found.

Without an audit, how sure can you be sure that your premises are safe for your people to work in and your customers to visit? You don’t want that unnoticed cracked floor tile to cause one of your team to trip over. Indeed, this could impact their health and having time off work, as well as trigger pressures on the rest of the team to still deliver the work but with one person down. And how certain are you that your people know how to correctly operate machinery, lift and carry heavy items, dilute and use chemicals, use ladders and so on?

Who performs health & safety audits?

Health and safety audits require time, specific training and meticulous attention to detail. Therefore, to help you with this area of compliance it is advisable to team up with a health and safety competent professional with whom you feel comfortable. By partnering with a specialist to do this work for you, it will  give you a different perspective from a qualified person outside of your business. In addition, you will gain confidence that you are doing things right for your people in terms of their safety and wellbeing. Alternatively, you can form an internal audit team to carry these out. But, remember, this team will need to receive training and coaching by qualified health and safety professionals

What is the purpose of a health and safety audit?

Some key facts

Infographics about health and safety breaches in GB
Infographics about major issues relating to work-related health and safety issues
Infographics showing enforcement of health and safety breaches

Incident and accident prevention

While these infographics sound alarming, the good news is that health and safety audits are here to help prevent such accidents, fines and claims from happening. Slips, trips and falls as well as manual handling remain major health and safety issues. That’s why carrying out periodic health and safety audits will help ensure that processes and procedures that you have in place for reducing these types of risks, are being managed and are working well.

Save your business from brand damage & hefty fines

Poor compliance to health and safety law that results in a complaint, major incident, accident or fatality can be very costly to your business reputation. If an investigation carried out by the Health & Safety Executive or Local Authority Environmental Health Officer, finds that it was a lack of risk control from your part, you could be prosecuted and heavily penalised in court by way of fine and/or imprisonment. In the space of a year, the average fine for health and safety breaches in the UK has increased by 35%!

For offences committed on/after 12 March 2015, if a court finds a business guilty of health and safety breaches, it now considers factors such as the company’s turnover, harm and culpability when deciding on the sentence to give. Magistrates’ court can sentence a person up to 6 months imprisonment and in Crown Courts it is up to 2 years.

For example, an international beverage company received a £3 million fine plus £90,000 extra costs to pay after the death of one of their employees following an ammonia gas leak. Another example is the warehouse explosion in a retail company that led to life-changing injuries to an electrician working on site and a hefty £1 million fine to the company.

Ensure a positive safety culture and high team morale

Let’s be honest, the last thing you want to do is filing daily RIDDOR reports, processing fit notes and receiving personal injury claims. In order for your teams to thrive and work efficiently and effectively, a positive safety culture needs to be in place. Your people should feel safe and secure as they carry out their daily work. This in turn will make them more motivated, enthusiastic, driven to succeed and happy whilst at work.

Quote from Reena about people' safety

We hope we have helped you to better understand the purpose and importance of hse audits. Let’s now look into how to do a health and safety audit!

6 tips on how to do a health and safety audit

1. Ensure a positive safety culture and high staff morale

Icons of various typical health and safety hazards

First, let’s look at common health and safety hazards. Indeed, it’s important for you to scope out your business’ risks. While trips, slips, falls and manual handling make up for 51% of work-related incidents, there’s a lot more to consider.

Equipped with 20+ years of experience in Environmental Health, Reena shares with us some of the main risk areas to look into with your audits:

  1. Workplace structure, design and layouts (including lighting and ventilation)
  2. Fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures
  3. Welfare facilities
  4. First aid arrangements
  5. Chemical safety, routines and cleaning equipment
  6. Housekeeping standards
  7. Manual handling procedures & training
  8. Electrical and gas safety 
  9. Personal protective equipment
  10. Ladder use and other working at height arrangements
  11. Water hygiene
  12. Noise levels
  13. Asbestos 
  14. Workplace risk assessments
  15. Incident, accident and near-miss reporting
  16. Staff and management H&S training
  17. Contractor safety procedures
  18. Security arrangements

2. Get help from a competent health and safety auditor

Audits can be time consuming and require adequate training. Partner with a health and safety auditing company with credentials and experience. Namely, you want to go for auditors who have a personal touch approach to put your people’s safety at the heart of everything they do. 

Our lovely auditors here at Navitas Safety are Environmental Health Professionals who have been delivering safety audits to clients for 33+ years. They will engage, explain and devise an audit tailored for you to help keep your people safe and your business compliant. 

Faces of our health and safety auditors

3. Build and customise the right audit checklist

Take into account your business size and industry

One key aspect of how to conduct a health and safety audit is to really tailor it to your business’ size, needs and risks. In fact, there is no ‘one template fits all’ health & safety audit template. You need to assess your business in-depth so that the right questions are included in the audit. 

In addition, the audit aims to fit your business needs and industry specific legislation. Indeed, a health and safety audit for a care home differs massively from one for a school, a timber merchant warehouse or a hair and beauty salon. In a nutshell, our specialists tailor safety audits based on:

  • Size and nature of your business
  • Your premises  layout
  • Team structure
  • Identified risks
  • Equipment and machinery used and related maintenance checks
  • Your industry-specific legal requirements

Build your audit checklist in categories with a scoring method

Then it’s time to build your audit checklist. Create categories in which you can run through different checks for a similar area, equipment or type of risk. Questions can be descriptive or prescriptive. For example, a ‘Contact with hazardous substance’ category. This could include questions such as:

  • Enough PPE provided?
  • Are staff trained on safety procedures for handling hazardous products?
  • Is there a poster with reminders of safety procedures?

In addition, create a scoring method so that you can evaluate your final audit score. For instance, a rating from 0 to 5 or a yes/no scoring. Now off you go! You’re ready to conduct your health and safety audit! 

Guidance quote from Reena on how to score and conduct a safety audit

Chat with one of our friendly health and safety professionals!

4. Set up a clear corrective action plan

Running an audit is one thing. Writing the final report and the consequent corrective action plan is another one! Carefully write your audit findings based on the level of risk that was found for each aspect of the audit. Then, organise your findings in a simple traffic-light priority system. This will help your team quickly visualise what needs correcting first:

  • Red for urgent risks to correct 🔴
  • Amber for improvements required once red flags are solved 🟠
  • Green for no action needed 🟢

Now, we know how time-consuming corrective action plans can be. This is where digital audit tools are handy. Indeed, they allow you to run audits from a laptop, tablet or smartphone and take pictures for evidence. Our specialist health and safety team here at Navitas Safety can help you create corrective action plans that are automatically generated once an issue is flagged out.

Image showing an example of our digital audit tool

5. Train and empower your teams

Our fifth tip is to communicate your findings with your team. Do not skip sharing and training your team on any potential hazard that was found during the audit. Not only will this ensure high safety standards but it will also boost staff morale! Show how much you care about their safety and they will respond positively to your efforts in keeping them safe. 

Did you know that we offer 100% online Level 2 Health & Safety courses?

6. Schedule regular audits

Quote from Reena explaining how often to schedule safety audits

Finally, let’s talk frequency. How often should health and safety audits be carried out? The answer is that it depends on your business needs, size and risks. A yearly in-depth health and safety audit is essential and quarterly, smaller sense-check audits are advisable too.

In addition, don’t forget ad hoc audits if a new process, law or equipment is added. You will need to do an immediate health & safety audit rather than wait for the next scheduled one. 

Fancy some support? We’re here for you!

We understand that it all sounds like a lot. Let our friendly health and safety auditors be a helping hand to plan bespoke safety audits tailored to your business. Drop the pen and paper audit checklist, we’ve got you covered digitally! 

Why choose Navitas Safety as your health & safety auditing company?

  • A specialist edge with 33+ years of experience helping businesses
  • All-in-one audit platform to make your health and safety audits stress-free
  • Instant results with automated corrective plans
  • One digital place for all audits, checklists, reports and corrective plans
  • Tailored review & monitoring of your health and safety policy
  • Wide range of audit types: full-day, half-day, gap-analysis policy review visits, revisits for failed audits etc

Here to help you out, not catch you out!