Local inspection and review

Although safety management systems are set up within individual management 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.

All units should develop systems of periodic inspection and audit to ensure that safety management systems are effective, cover all risks and are operated correctly within the unit.  A typical monitoring arrangement would include the following elements.

  • Inspection of physical standards, working practice etc.  For example. walk-round workplace inspections.
  • Auditing of safety management arrangements.  This is a more management focussed process and will involve a scrutiny and review of the managerial arrangements for selected (or all) aspects of health and safety within the unit. SEPS carry out a rolling prpgramme of audit across the University and work with departments on this.

Inspections should normally be carried out by a team of two or three people which will usually include the local Safety Co-ordinator (or specialist co-ordinators) and other staff with local knowledge of the work and of the appropriate safety standards.  Those responsible for managing the area either directly or in a line management capacity can be included and it is often useful to invite Trade Union Safety Representatives to participate.  (Note that Safety Representatives do have a legal right to carry out their own workplace inspections should they so wish.)  It is useful for seniro management, in cluding Heads of unit to particpate in some inspections to demonstrate a commitment to standards and to view, at first hand, whether the local procedures are effective.

It can also be useful to include someone from outside the unit on occasions as they may be able to view the work from a fresh perspective.  Staff from areas engaged in similar work may be able to do this.  Professional safety advisers based within SEPS are unable to attend all inspections as matter of routine but may be able to participate in some local inspections.  SEPS may also carry out their own inspections periodically as part of our University-wide monitoring role. 

All Schools and the larger Service units should have a programme of periodic local inspection in place, although the nature and frequency of this can be adjusted to the nature of the environment and hazards present. Where risks are low, for example, in small office-based units, an informal periodic walk round may be adequate.  In higher risk premises (e.g. laboratories and workshops) a formal inspection and report would normally be required.  Thsi might be carried out 2-3 times per year, depending on the risk level and previous findings.

For routine inspections, use of a checklist can aid the process.  No single checklist will be suitable for all areas and area-specific checklists should be developed locally.  These should be regarded as flexible working documents that can be modified and extended as staff develop increased competence and experience in the inspection process.  Inspection programmes should be informed by accident investigation findings and by risk assessment of any new or changed working practices. It can be useful to include new or inexperienced staff in inspections on occasions as a training process.

Reports on inspections should be prepared and any actions that are needed to rectify deficiencies found during the inspection noted.  Responsibility for these actions should be assigned to named individuals with timescales for completion.  These should be followed up as part of the normal management process and also checked at the next inspection.  Summaries of inspection reports or the reports themselves should be reviewed by the local safety committee and by the Head of Unit.

Audit and review
Auditing is a complementary process to inspection and looks at the adequacy and 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.  At College or School level, audit of particular systems may usefully form part of an ongoing process for periodic review of particular aspects of the health and safety management systems within the unit and unit are encouraged to look critically at their internal arrangements in thsi way periodically.  Reports should be submitted to the local safety committee and Head of Unit.

Auditing is a "top-down" process and 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 there is awareness of the process, 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.

A useful way to begin an audit is to begin with a stated organisational policy and to then ask whether all of the practical elements needed to deliver the intended result are in place, e.g. a policy that states “All electrical equipment will be maintained in a safe condition” should lead to a detailed examination of what measures are in place to achieve that aim.  In an audit, these will include documentation, evidence of assigned duties, training and monitoring arrangements as well as the actual checks made on electrical equipment. In general a reasonably detailed statement of safety arrangement is required, rather than simply a ststement of the goal to be achieved.

As with inspections, audit reports should be produced and, where appropriate, recommendations for improvement made.  Where good practice is noted this should also be included within reports and efforts made to spread such practice to other parts of the unit where its adoption would be beneficial.   As the auditing process involves an examination of the management arrangements it is essential that those involved in conducting an audit have an understanding of management in general and also of the procedures within the unit.  A team approach involving local managers and local safety co-ordinators is recommended. 

SEPS also operate an auditing system at corporate level to ensure that management units do have safety management structures in operations.