You’ve set up your team and finished your audit, but now what do you do with all your safety audit data? The purpose of conducting a safety audit is to assist in the continuous improvement of your organisation’s health and safety procedures.
Your safety audit data should reveal your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of safety compliance, critical risks and controls, employee safety knowledge, training and safety resources. In this article, we show you how to collate your safety audit data, understand the information, document improvements and create positive change.
Guiding Principles of a Safety Audit
There are four guiding principle questions to consider when you conduct your audit to help you collect the most revealing safety audit data:
1. Does your safety system cover all regulatory and best industry practice requirements?
2. Are the requirements being met?
3. Is there documented proof of compliance?
4. Is employee training effective – can and do they apply specific safe behaviours to address workplace hazards?
When you conduct your safety audit, you should address each safety programme requirement taking note of all the deficiencies. When you go to the physical location of the selected area to observe the work, you should ask detailed questions of the employees working in that area to gather as much relevant information as possible. It’s always a good idea to use audit checklists that cover all safety objectives and applicable regulations so you don’t miss anything.
See our article, How to Prepare for a Safety Audit.
Reviewing the Safety Audit Data
After your safety audit team has completed the information gathering, it’s time to sift through all the data. The purpose is to arrange the material to address any deficiencies, as well as noting any positive feedback. The documents that you should collate are:
- Written programmes,
- Work practices,
- Equipment inspections,
- Incident reports and
- Training completions and those scheduled.
Incident reports are particularly insightful because they reveal areas of potential problems. Detailed incident reports help auditors better apply scrutiny to known problem areas.
All safety audit comments, recommendations and corrective actions should consider whether the audited programme covers all regulatory and best industry practice requirements. You should also determine whether you are meeting those requirements and whether you are documenting proof of compliance. It’s also essential to conclude how effective employee training is in producing safe behaviour.
After inspecting all documents, written programmes, procedures, work practices and equipment, the audit teams should sift through the collected safety audit data to put together a concise report that details all areas of the safety programme and their recommendations for improvement.
See our article, Do You Meet Your OHS Obligations?
Recommendations From the Safety Audit
Once you organise and review the safety audit data, the next step is to develop recommended actions for each deficiency.
Auditors should include a consequence/impact/effect of why something occurred. Determining the cause and discussing the best action to take can lead to a better outcome. Examining the impact and effect of the deficiency helps to prioritise your recommendations for improvement. Remember, when prioritising your recommended actions, you should refer to the hierarchy of hazard controls.
Also, you should examine the manner and means in which you are managing the current deficiencies to determine if there is a more straightforward procedure that you can use.
On the positive side, you should note the processes that are working well because you can learn valuable lessons from them. You may be able to apply these effective processes to address the gaps and shortcomings in other areas of the business.
When developing your recommendations, you should consider the consequence of these actions. Will your suggestions only make more rules, require extra record-keeping, or interfere with production tasks? Or will they make the organisation safer and still achieve satisfactory production levels?
See our article, How to Choose Effective Hazard Control Measures.
Developing a Corrective Action Plan
After determining your recommendations for efficiencies that emerge from the safety audit data, you need to develop a corrective action plan. To most effectively develop an action plan, you should involve the managers and supervisors of the work area. After all, they will be the people who will need to execute the corrections and support the changes you recommend.
There are three categories in a Corrective Action Plan:
- Non-compliance – the organisation is in breach of a requirement and urgent action is required to fix any non-compliant issues. If you can’t rectify the contravention in a day or two, then a Notice to Remedy with a due date is provided.
- Observation – this is an opinion of the auditing team and therefore subjective. The organisation can decide whether to implement any changes based on the advice provided; however, it isn’t mandatory.
- Opportunity for Improvement – a suggestion for making a change that could lead to a better outcome. Once again, this action is not mandatory.
When you set the corrective action plan priorities, you should base them on the level of risk they create as per the hierarchy of hazard controls. You should communicate to all relevant personnel, support the action with appropriate training, and assign a completion and review date to all the corrective actions.
Usually, audits reveal the need for major corrective actions that need to happen immediately and minor actions that the company should consider for continual improvement. Therefore, some of the corrective actions that you may need to take you may need to include in your long-term objectives and targets because they may require careful planning and budgeting.
The audit team should work with managers and supervisors to set priorities and base them on the level of hazard each finding presents. Items that pose the most significant risk should receive priority over items with lower risk values.
Writing a Safety Audit Report
Once they have conducted the audit, your team members should compile all their notes into a report to summarise the findings to present to management. It’s vital that the report is concise and reflects the areas that need improvement and the positive practices that you identify. Try to use a tabular format with graphs, diagrams and photos because this makes the information easier to understand. The report should include:
- The areas that were audited,
- Information on who conducted the audit,
- A list of all employees that were interviewed,
- The findings and perspectives of all audit team members, and
- A list of recommended actions and areas for improvement, based on the audit findings.
It is essential to let all supervisors and managers know the safety audit findings and recommendations. Here you also have an opportunity to acknowledge departments, managers and supervisors who are correctly executing their safety responsibilities.
Employees also like to know what’s going well and where improvements will happen. Many organisations post their safety audit data on their company intranet pages, in common areas or other appropriate venues to encourage transparency, champion safe practice, and let their employees and others see the status of safety in their business. This practice acknowledges the audit team, as well as the contributions of managers and employees who were part of the process. Safety audit data can stimulate conversations to promote safe practice and support continuous improvements through future audits and other safety activities.
Addressing Gaps in Employee Safety Knowledge
One of the key areas in the safety audit is to review employee training and evidence of knowledge. You need to prove compliance and continuing competence. If your audit reveals gaps in employee’s safety knowledge, the Tap into Safety Platform can help because it offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training.
The training has a focus on critical risk and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. With over 30 out of the box training modules across a range of industry settings, the Platform is likely to meet your safety training needs. However, if we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.
This article extends our discussion on safety audits to reveal what you can do with your safety audit data. Your safety audit data should reveal your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of safety compliance, critical risks and controls, employee safety knowledge, training and safety resources.
After your safety audit team has completed the information gathering, it’s time to sift through all the data to review what you found. Out of your review, you should determine your recommendations for improvement together with supervisors and managers and develop a corrective action plan. The hazard hierarchy of controls will help you to prioritise what corrective actions you should tackle first.
Finally, a safety audit report should be sent to managers for review and made public to all employees, supervisors and department managers to support any corrective actions and to recognise those who are correctly meeting their safety responsibilities.
This article is also available on the Tap into Safety podcast.