May be defined as ‘freedom from circumstances that cause, or are likely to cause, illness, injury or damage’. A state of safety also exists when, in the case of an incident, there is no risk of injury or illness to a person, nor damage to plant. That is, emergency procedures are in place. The Doug Wakefield definition of safety is: “The ability to take the next breath in the most beautiful and comfortable way!”

Safety audit

This is a consideration, from a point of view of health, safety and welfare of every task in the organisation. It includes, but is not limited to, an assessment of procedures, plant and substances involved with each task. A safety audit must take into account movement of personnel and plant and substances, as well as identification, assessment and control of hazards in, and adjacent to, the workplace and its environs. All documentation will also be monitored.

In its simplest terms, a safety audit asks:

  1. Check that a system exists;
  2. Challenge that system                                            

It includes a measurement of established WHS systems compared with workplace outcomes: how what we say we do measures against what we actually do.

The audit will check that each part of the WHS system is integrated and highlight any deficiencies. Three general considerations cover:

a)      underlying strengths and weaknesses of the system;

b)      established WHS controls in the system;

c)       performance indicators.

Included will be a check on the allocation of WHS responsibilities and the fulfilment of WHS needs.

Along the way, this will include audits of documentation and document control; how the organisation fulfils various regulatory guidelines (including emergency and injury management), and workplace inspection. The audit will take into account verbal and written accounts of WHS issues, as well as observe what is actually happening in the workplace.

Reporting and recording mechanisms will be investigated, as will maintenance and incident reports and procedures. Upper and middle management, supervisors and Workers, visitors and customers of the organisation will be questioned regarding their own compliance and observations of WHS issues associated with the facility.

In various industries, there are also occasional specifics to be measured. For example a salvage diving business may have a policy and procedure for decompression with staged ascents; a hospital may have a policy and procedures for reporting gunshot wounds.

Why Audit?

An audit of WHS policies and procedures is, of course, integral to achieving the benchmark of 100% safe. For safety, unlike many other vocations, cannot be satisfied with anything less. Whereas we may be happy with achieving 90% in customer satisfaction, a 10% failure in safety can mean a life… and what price do we put on that precious commodity?

If an audit exposes weaknesses in the WHS management systems, the weaknesses may be addressed, rather than remain hidden 'unknowns' with the likelihood of failure at the most inappropriate time - usually having disastrous effect on the business and its employees.

Though your auditor can never guarantee a ‘No Fine’ situation in premises audited, there is a guarantee of an amelioration – a mitigation – of any fine arising from an WHS issue within the areas the auditor has access to – provided appropriate corrective action has been taken, of course!

Assisting Your Auditor Achieve Your Goal:

Your auditor will apply skills brought to the profession from both practical and academic experience.

Your auditor will play the devil’s advocate and question the status quo of many parts of your organisation apropos health, safety and welfare. We hope you and all staff are aware of the role, and will render all assistance necessary to enable a true and fair picture of the WHS of the workplace to be defined. Just as an engineer tests the strengths of a building’s beams and supports, and will report on weaknesses and white ants in the structure, your WHS auditor will test and check the strengths of your WHS systems, and similarly report on weaknesses and gaps in the system. All personnel involved in the audit process should take into account the auditor is not in the role to blame, nor to report misdemeanours to outside authorities. The auditor will assist the organisation to identify hazards, assess the risk associated with the hazards, and control the risks by either outright elimination, or by reducing the risk to an acceptable level. The aim being to ensure each and every person entering, or being affected by, the workplace or the goods and services the workplace produces, does not suffer any ill-effect to their health, safety or welfare arising from that interaction with the workplace, its goods or services.

                 (i)     Preparing for the Auditor

As stated above, in its simplest form, an audit:

  1. Checks that a system exits
  2. Challenges that system

Where a system does not exist, an auditor may choose to ‘challenge’ (do a ‘gap analysis’) WHS activities using the Reg. as the benchmark to compare what actually happens with what should be happening, etc. To carry out this work, the Auditor will need to carry-out an investigation of what the firm says is going, on, what employees perceive as going on, what the firm actually does, and what should be happening. This usually means a lots of questions need to be asked throughout the enterprise.

In order to save you and your team time during the actual WHS audit, here are some preliminary audit points that will be brought up. You can assist by having proofs, etc. available, where possible.

Please encourage a 'true and fair' approach to this process, and ensure all persons are aware this is for ongoing improvement and risk management, not a backward attempt at blaming personnel for shortcomings:

1 Interview stage of audit (where the auditors will face-to-face discuss issues):

Management/supervisory staff

  • General responsibilities under the Act and supporting legislation
  • Grievance procedures
  • Discipline procedures
  • Incident (injury/illness/damage/near-hit) reporting and recording procedures (including injury management)
  • Location of, and how-to-use, emergency equipment, and routes relevant to supervised geographic work-area(s)
  • Principles of risk management (IE Identify/assess/control risks associated with relevant hazards; meaning and application of 'Hierarchy of Hazard control)
  • Principles of WHS communication/consultation (including WHS consultation statement)



  • General responsibilities under the Act and supporting legislation
  • Grievance procedures exist, and where to access them
  • Discipline procedures exist, and where to access them
  • Location of, and how to use, emergency equipment, and routes relevant to geographic work-area(s)
  • Incident (injury/illness/damage/near-hit) reporting and recording procedures
  • Principles of WHS communication/consultation (including WHS consultation statement)


Documents to be produced (where requested and extant), include:

  • Worker handbook, especially reference to WHS programmes, WHS consultation statement, etc.
  • WHS programmes
  • WHS general policy
  • WHS specific policies (eg manual handling; aggression)
  • WHS Manual
  • Safe work procedure(s) (SWP)
  • WHS inspection(s) checklist(s)
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • Purchasing controls
  • 'High-risk' (eg aggressive behaviour) profiling of regular clients
  • Plant/building maintenance schedules/records
  • 'Outsourcing' (contractor/sub-contractor) control(s)
  • Emergency procedures (evacuation; fire; first-aid)
  • Injury/illness/damage reporting system(s)
  • Training records, especially record of Worker inductions
  • Incident investigation records
  • Contingency plans
  • Review strategies


Where you believe a system is well-addressed, albeit in an informal manner, please have on hand an example or two that will assist you to prove the system is working in a fair and practical manner. EG you may not have any documented employee induction package, but your supervisory staff might record that they deliver inductions in their day-diaries as part of 'normal' day-to-day notations. A 'proof' would be to produce one of the diary notations (a 'contemporaneous note').