Health and safety auditing

The law requires the University to have arrangements in place for monitoring health and safety. This includes routine inspections and periodical auditing. Some of the key points about who and what is involved in health and safety auditing are detailed below or see our comprehensive auditing guide:

About audits

An audit is different to an inspection. An inspection is generally limited to an examination of physical conditions so that an assessment can be made of basic legal compliance.

An audit involves collecting information about the health and safety management system and making judgements about its adequacy and performance. Audits provide a 'feedback loop' to those responsible for managing health and safety. It is a proactive method to monitor whether risk controls and processes put in place to manage health and safety across the University are adequate and effective in practice, or whether improvements could be made.

Audit content and process

Health and safety audits at the University are usually carried out by topic rather than department. This enables us to focus on areas of greatest risk. Also, as sampling can be carried out across several departments it reduces demands on individual departments, whilst giving a clearer picture of the effectiveness of implementation across the University. This helps all departments learn from the audit.

Once Health and Safety Group have agreed a topic and timetable for a health and safety audit the details of how it will be conducted will be posted on this site and departments affected will be notified.

Audit responsibilities

The Guide to Health and Safety Auditing (.pdf) and Health and Safety Audit Flowchart (.pdf) present an overview of the process to aid auditor/s and auditee/s. Timescales are given as a guide. It is recognised that these may need to be adjusted at busy times in the University calendar.

The auditor/s will co-ordinate the process from start to finish, conduct the audit, produce a report on their findings and track the progress of any action plan arising.

Auditee/s will be responsible for providing relevant documentation before and during the audit, attending the audit (specific personnel required will be agreed in advance), proposing how they wish to address the findings identified and assigning resources and/or timescales to address any audit findings.

Minimising disruption

The auditing activity will accommodate teaching and other University commitments wherever possible, whilst aiming to meet the University agreed timescale to complete the identified audits and produce any associated action plans.

The auditor/s are responsible for co-ordinating the audit activity from start to finish so the impact on those being audited should be minimised as far as possible.

Wivenhoe House Hotel and UECS

Where the subject is relevant, UECS and Wivenhoe House Hotel will be asked if they also want to participate in the audit. If they agree they will be included in the process and a report made to the UECS Health and Safety Committee.

Learning from previous audits

Risk assessment audit 2014-15

The objectives of the risk assessment audit was to:

  • identify whether a sample of risk assessments produced by managers of higher risk areas meet legal and University requirements and are suitable and sufficient
  • identify gaps between risk assessment requirements and practice
  • where common weaknesses are identified, make recommendations for how support can be given to improve the standard

The audit report was published in August 2015. The report identified that the content and format of risk assessment documents was found to be poor overall and risk assessment training alone did not improve the standard. Recommendations mainly relate to improving risk assessment training, guidance and departmental review, rather than significant failures.

Following the audit a new Health and Safety Standard on Risk Assessment as published and a programme of training and risk assessment review was undertaken, to ensure risk assessments met the new standard.

Electrical and fire safety audit (March – August 2012)

The objective of this audit was to:

  • carry out electrical safety and fire safety audits on a sample cohort to establish whether processes and controls are adequate
  • identify where robust practices are in place and where areas for improvement are required

The audit found that the management of fire safety was satisfactory. There is good awareness of fire safety and evidence of good control procedures. However fire risk assessments had not been formally reviewed for some time and web-based fire safety standards required updating. This has now been addressed.

The management of risks from portable electrical appliances was found to be poor, as there was a high level of non-compliance with the PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) Policy and a poor understanding of PAT requirements within departments and sections.

Following the audit a fully revised PAT standard was produced. Monitoring of PAT is also carried out through the University’s inspection process.

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