April 26, 2024

How to stay compliant during safety audits (and beyond)

News Article

In the construction sector, safety transcends mere compliance – it’s a critical component that safeguards lives and assets.  

The industry is known for its high-risk activities, necessitating stringent safety measures to prevent accidents and ensure the well-being of all stakeholders.  

Safety audits serve as the cornerstone in maintaining workplace health and safety, providing a systematic approach to identifying risks and ensuring adherence to safety protocols. 

A safety audit is a structured process of evaluating the effectiveness of a company’s health and safety management system.  

Its primary objectives include ensuring compliance with safety legislation, identifying potential hazards, and recommending measures to mitigate these risks.  

Through this rigorous examination, businesses can not only ensure the safety and health of their employees but also align their operations with legal standards and industry best practices. 

Key regulations governing safety audits 

Several key regulations form the backbone of safety audit requirements in the construction industry. 

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sets out the general duties employers have towards employees and members of the public, as well as the duties employees have to themselves and to each other. Its broad scope ensures a safe working environment across all sectors, including construction. 

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) target the construction sector directly, emphasising the integration of safety measures right from the project’s planning phase through to completion. These regulations assign specific responsibilities to all parties involved in a construction project. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to conduct thorough risk assessments and implement suitable measures to manage those risks, ensuring a proactive approach to workplace safety. 

The importance of safety audits 

Conducting safety audits offers numerous benefits: 

  • Compliance with your legal obligations: Regular audits help ensure that construction businesses adhere to the necessary legal frameworks, avoiding potential fines and legal issues. 
  • Risk management: Audits identify potential hazards, allowing businesses to address these issues proactively. 
  • Accident prevention: By identifying and mitigating risks, audits play a crucial role in preventing accidents and illnesses in the workplace. 
  • Fostering a safety culture: Regular audits foster a culture of safety within the organisation, where safety becomes a shared responsibility. 
  • Financial benefits: A safe workplace minimises the risk of accidents, which in turn reduces the costs associated with injuries, legal fees, and lost productivity. 

Who performs safety audits? 

Safety audits can be conducted by either internal or external auditors.  

Internal auditors, usually employees trained in health and safety compliance, offer an intimate understanding of the company’s operations.  

External auditors, on the other hand, bring an impartial perspective, ensuring an unbiased assessment of the company’s safety practices.  

The choice between internal and external auditors depends on the company’s specific needs, resources, and the complexity of the construction project. 

The safety audit process 

The safety audit process involves several key stages: 

  1. Planning and preparation: Establish clear objectives, schedule the audit, and define its scope. 
  1. Conducting the audit: Auditors assess compliance with safety regulations, identifying risks and areas for improvement. 
  1. Reporting: The audit results in a detailed report outlining findings and recommendations. 
  1. Follow-up actions: Implement the suggested improvements and strategies for continuous safety enhancement. 

Safety audits should occur at various project stages – planning, during construction, and upon completion – and also as part of a regular schedule or in response to specific triggers, such as incidents or significant operational changes. 

To maximise the effectiveness of these safety audits, businesses should: 

  • Engage all staff levels in the audit process to foster a culture of safety. 
  • Ensure transparency and openness to encourage honest communication and feedback. 
  • Prioritise corrective actions based on audit findings to address the most critical risks first. 
  • Use audit results as a tool for continuous safety improvement, learning from each audit cycle. 

Consulting with a solicitor specialising in construction and health and safety law is also crucial.  

Legal experts can provide invaluable advice on compliance, help navigate the complexities of safety legislation, and offer strategies for mitigating legal risks. 

If you’d like further advice or information on your safety audit requirements, please contact a member of our team.