Although safety management systems are set up within individual organisational units it is not sufficient to assume that these will always operate as envisaged and that everyone involved will adopt best working practices.  As with any management system, regular monitoring is required to ensure that the system is initially suitable and workable and thereafter continues to function at a satisfactory standard.

Auditing is a complementary process to inspection and looks at the function of the management system that has been set up. The aim is to gain a comprehensive view of how well the system is operating. It will usually examine the systems for management of one or more elements of health and safety from beginning to end rather than relying only on what can be seen from the inspection process alone. 

For example, a basic audit of an accident investigation system will look, not only, at whether accidents are recorded but will also consider whether reports are of an adequate standard, whether they are submitted to the right people and whether action is taken on findings.  Documentation associated with this system will also be examined and selected staff may be interviewed to test their awareness of the system within the unit. i.e. whether policies and arrangements have been effectively communicated.


Audit Objectives

  1. To examine the University’s compliance with statutory and other appropriate health and safety requirements and with its own procedures as set out in the University Health and Safety Policy, and to make recommendations for areas of improvement or for further work as necessary.
  2. To assist the University and individual management units in prioritising the appropriate resources and organisational arrangements for effective risk management in relation to health and safety.
  3. To monitor the University and management units’ progress against health and safety performance objectives and targets.
  4. To report findings to Court and to senior university management to allow the institution to effectively oversee and manage its safety performance.



  1. Audit – a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it  objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.
  2. Auditee – is the part of the University to be audited. This would typically be a School, Institute or Service unit.
  3. Auditor – a suitably qualified and competent person that will perform the internal audit process.
  4. Workplaces – would typically be Schools, Institutes or Service units within the University.


Audit Process

Here is a brief summary of the audit process. It is a step by step approach to the process. Our FAQ section deals with more specific queries relating to roles and expectations.


Step1: Pre-audit planning meeting

This is conducted by a lead auditor in consultation with representatives of each workplace to be audited (i.e. Assistant Director, Administrator and Safety Coordinator).  It is also necessary for the Head of School, Director or equivalent to be present to help specify and endorse the audit plan.


Step2: Audit

The audit will be conducted over 1 or 2 daysdepending on the risk profile of the auditee. The auditor may request to interview anyone in the workplace who may be able to provide on-the-spot confirmation or other information relating to the audit. The auditor may also request any document required as evidence of work health and safety legislative compliance.


Step3: Closing meeting

This is attended by all those who were involved in the pre-audit planning meeting including management from each audited workplace (i.e. Assistant Director, Administrator and Safety Coordinator) and also the Head of School, Director or representative.


Step4: Draft audit report

This is forwarded by SEPS to the Head of School or equivalent to establish agreement on the audit findings and is normally completed within two weeks. The auditors may have identified shortfalls which can be easily and quickly corrected. During the audit discussions these will have been pointed out to offer an opportunity to apply immediate corrective actions and achieve compliance against some audit questions.


Step5: Final audit report

The auditors will divide outstanding required corrective actions into three categories to be completed before pre-arranged review meetings as follows:

Priority High - The absence of or the failure to implement and maintain, one or more management system elements.

Priority Medium - A finding indicative of a weakness in the implemented and maintained system, which has not significantly impacted on the capability of the management system

Priority Low - A finding warranting correction but not indicative of a system failure or weakness and of insufficient concern or potential impact to mandate root cause.

The final report will be forwarded by SEPS with additional copies to the Head of Management Unit and any other agreed persons. The senior management has overall resourcing and budgetary control for the audited workplaces and is therefore well placed to influence overarching corrective measures where required.


Audit Documents


Safety Management Audit Tool


Auditing FAQ