Monitoring and reporting are vital elements of your health and safety culture. Having the right tools for the job gives you peace of mind and a competitive advantage.
In many cases, day-to-day health and safety information only needs to be reported periodically, as part of a formal review. But strong monitoring systems ensure these reviews go above and beyond simple compliance.
The paperwork problem
Traditionally, businesses create health and safety policies to underpin their compliance efforts. These translate into procedures which meet the policies’ objectives, typically recorded on paper forms.
When it’s time for a health and safety compliance audit, an inspector will go over those paper forms to see how you’re doing. It’s a bit like an annual health check from your GP.
The problem here is there’s no way to tell if things have gone awry between check-ups. Spotting trends and making data-driven decisions across multiple teams and sites using information from paper spreadsheets is a tricky, time-consuming task.
There’s a better way
Now, businesses are ditching paperwork in favour of digital systems which continually monitor and record procedures in real time. Compared to the annual GP check-up, this method is more like having a smart watch tracking your pulse 24/7.
Robust health and safety procedures should give everyone the info they need. The board, compliance professionals and quality assurance teams need relevant, incident-led reports on compliance performance, with visibility of ongoing trends and anomalies.
Being able to monitor performance digitally, in real time, makes it easier to optimise the allocation of resources. You can address or even anticipate potential issues, fixing problems before an inspector asks you to.
What happens in a health and safety audit?
When it’s time for a formal health and safety inspection, the exact method will depend on what’s appropriate for your workplace. This should be agreed with your health and safety representatives. It might include:
- A straightforward inspection of the workplace
- Observing samples of specific processes
- Conducting surveys of problem areas or activities
- Reactive inspections of accidents or near-misses
Your local authority’s Environmental Health Officers (EHO) will, in most cases, give reasonable written notice before an audit or inspection.
These should take place roughly every six months, but could happen more often in some circumstances. If there are big changes made to your workplace, or to legislation, the EHO might want to take a fresh look.
Likewise, some workplaces will inevitably going need to be inspected more often. An oil rig or construction site needs closer scrutiny than a regular office.
Preparing for a health and safety assessment
When an inspection looms, you might consider consulting an external specialist to carry out sample audits on your business and help with refining policy. This helps identify issues which inspectors might raise.
Other ways to lay the groundwork include:
- Having a clear plan in mind, with a pre-agreed inspection team or consultant if possible
- If the inspection team contains multiple people, coordinating activity to minimise disruption
- For large workplaces or across multiple sites, breaking down tasks into an achievable timetable to avoid having to cut corners
- Keeping your inspection team appropriately trained and resourced, with the correct data to hand so they’re aware of issues requiring their attention
After an inspection takes place, be absolutely clear about what follow-up activity is needed. Where possible, have the same inspector conduct this follow-up for maximum consistency.
Communicate the findings of an investigation, and any subsequent action, clearly throughout the workplace. Use these findings to continually monitor policies and processes to create a robust system.
Digitising compliance monitoring
These robust systems of monitoring and checking compliance arm you with the means to take real-time action when you need to. Pen-and-paper spreadsheets are yesterday’s news, but what digitisation options are available?
Spreadsheets could work, but they’re clunky, decentralised and hard to analyse. Monitoring is still reactive. Building your own system, even a simple checklist app, drags your IT people away from their core roles and is hard to scale.
Using a simple, proven, cloud-based solution like Checkit allows you to continuously monitor processes in real time.
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Today, competitive advantage comes from having the data to prove your checks and monitoring are effective, spotting issues long before an audit is due.
Our proven digital technology delivers continuous compliance management.
That means a new approach to compliance management. Smarter and more user-friendly, with 24/7 oversight and impact, as well as being faster to audit.