Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Audits – Simplified
OHS Audits Overview
Any employer must have a safety and health programme as part of its overall management system. This programme must be adequate, covering the following elements:
- The health and safety work organisation as well as policy in any company.
- The process involved with the planning for prevention of accidents and illnesses.
- Line management responsibilities towards OHS, and
- Practices, procedures, and resources for developing and implementing, reviewing as well as maintaining the occupational safety and health policies which are implemented.
One of the easiest and most thorough ways to ensure that all of this is in place, is by conducting an OHS Audit, or by making use of SafetyWallet’s subscription, which is an all-encompassing package, of which a thorough OHS compliance audit forms a part.
OHS Audits work to evaluate a safety system or process. Auditing and performance review form part of the final steps in the health and safety management control cycle. Organizations must be able to reinforce, maintain and develop their ability to reduce risks in the workplace.
The final stage in the process produces what is known as a ‘feedback loop’, enabling the organisation to ensure that there is consistent and continuous effectiveness where the health and safety management system is concerned.
Although audits are not a legal requirement, it is the legal responsibility of all employers, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to ensure that the work environment that they provide is free of hazards and risks, and that those that exist are controlled and mitigated to prevent injury, illness, disease, and death to employees and visitors.
Auditing is the best way through which organisations can check their level of compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Act regulations. It shows how effective plans as well as components of the health and safety systems are implemented and how they function.
Audits also provide a check on both the adequacy as well as effectiveness where the management arrangements and risk control systems are concerned.
Health and Safety Audit Frequency
The requirement associated with audit frequency is determined by the organisation itself. It can also be determined by the specified regulatory requirements as well as other ruling factors.
Should there be any substantial changes in the organisation’s policies or any management changes, technologies, or techniques which may affect the Occupational Health and Safety systems? Or should there be changes to the system itself along with results of recent previous audits, these circumstances must be considered when deciding audit frequency.
Organizations may also have a combination of both internal and external OHS audit systems as a recommendation. Internal audits provide the perfect opportunity for the organisation to conduct frequent audits to ensure that the system is compliant and that all measures are still effective.
Organizations can decide that external audits can be conducted annually, or every few years, or as specified by a statute. When subscribing to SafetyWallet, members are required to have a OHS compliance conducted every year to ensure compliance and so that the OHS Compliance Certificate can be issued after the successful completion of the OHS audit.
The reason for the yearly audit is due to new hazards which may occur due to ever-changing conditions in the workplace, which need to be addressed with control measures indicated in the audit, and the review on the effectiveness of these control measures.
OHS Auditor Responsibilities
The SafetyWallet auditor has numerous responsibilities where the conducting of the OHS audit is concerned. However, the following form part of their main responsibilities, which is communicated to the audit team before the audit is conducted:
- Compliance with all applicable audit requirements and SafetyWallet protocols.
- The planning and carrying out of assigned responsibilities in a manner that is both effective and efficient.
- Documenting of any, and all, observations, or findings.
- The reporting and representation of audit results.
- Verification on the effectiveness of corrective actions which are taken as result of earlier audits conducted, if requested by the client.
- Retaining as well as safeguarding of documents that form part of the audit as well as treating privileged information with utmost discretion.
- Cooperation with and supporting of the lead auditor.
Importance of Reviewing OHS Auditing Performance
By having a SafetyWallet OHS Audit conducted, management can ensure that the policies are being carried out and that they have the desired effects. In addition, auditing also serves the purpose of complementing the monitoring programme.
There are vast differences between auditing and inspecting; auditing assesses the ability of an organisation in meeting its own standards on a wider and more in-depth front, rather than offering a ‘snapshot’ of a particular site or premises’ compliance.
With an efficient and effective OHS audit, it is possible to identify any deviations from agreed standards, analyse events that lead to such deviations and the highlighting of good practice.
Audits look specifically at the ‘software elements’ contained in health and safety including systems of work, management practices, instructions, training, supervision, and more traditional ‘hardware’ elements such as machine guarding, the use of personal protective equipment, and several others.
Recommendations by the SafetyWallet Auditor
When the audit findings and observations have been presented, the SafetyWallet auditor plays another crucial role in the OHS Audit as far as improvements to the OHS programme is concerned, making recommendations.
Employers who have an OHS programme with well-specified requirements, it is adequate for non-conformities to be pointed out with the requirement. However, these are often not well laid down and it therefore becomes imperative for recommendations to be made.
There are two recommendations which can be made, namely:
- For the OHS programme requirements to be improved and for the implementation of the specified requirements associated with the system.
- For the auditee to determine the extent as well as the ways and means of actions which can improve their OHS programme according to the recommendations made by the SafetyWallet audit team. It should be noted that recommendations involved with compliance with statutory and legal requirements must be implemented fully.