Health and safety audit and assurance: case study

Health and safety | January 2019

housing estateAdvising on housing association health and safety

We’ve been working with a housing association managing a large and diverse portfolio of properties across London and the South of England. With more than 111,000 residents and 8,000 care home services customers, the in-house health and safety team benefits from expert guidance from our consultants.

We advised the team on how health and safety is managed across the organisation, identifying areas of strong performance, and opportunities to improve risk management.

“I work closely with the housing association’s in-house team to gain a real understanding of their significant risks. System Concepts’ work gives them an independent, added level of assurance that their health and safety responsibilities are being properly met and managed.”

Julie North | Principal Consultant | System Concepts


Challenge

The housing association often acquires new sites as part of its development programme. These ‘interim sites’ remain unoccupied until development work begins. Some interim sites are open spaces of land, whilst others contain vacant buildings and structures that are often derelict and in various states of disrepair.

The hazards found at these interim sites vary across the portfolio, and may include:

  • Asbestos
  • Contaminated land
  • Water hazards
  • Unprotected high working places
  • Unstable structures
  • Fly tipping and other trespassing.

Interim sites

Community housing conceptThe housing association has a duty to ensure that its interim sites are maintained and managed to reduce any risks to its employees, contractors and visitors. It must also ensure the safety of people who trespass onto these sites.

Our client already had a documented procedure setting out how it managed health and safety at interim sites, including allocating responsibilities for specific tasks. All these aspects of its health and safety responsibilities needed to be assessed and reviewed.


Audit and assurance: what we did

We collaborated with the housing association’s health and safety team to develop a risk based audit schedule for its interim sites. Our approach was shaped by our wider experience of audit and assurance services across the housing and property management sectors.

Our audit methods included:

  1. Defining the audit scope, objectives and criteria based on the housing association’s documented procedures for managing health and safety at interim sites.
  2. Visiting and auditing each interim site, including reviewing relevant documents, inspecting all areas, and speaking with site-based staff.
  3. Holding semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders responsible for the interim sites.
  4. We presented our findings in concise, site-specific written reports. Our findings and recommendations were classified using the housing association’s existing ratings, ensuring consistency with other audits carried out across the organisation.

Benefits

Our audits enabled the housing association’s health and safety team to provide independent, evidence based assurance to its audit and risk committee for health and safety management of its interim sites.

We were able to tell them what they were doing well – and to make recommendations on where they needed to improve. And they gained an informed and objective indication of how well their written procedures for managing health and safety at interim sites were being implemented.

Julie North, one of System Concepts’ Principal Consultants, says, “We’ve enjoyed a positive and collaborative working relationship with our housing association client, who found our audit and assurance work very productive. Due to this, we’re continuing to work with the organisation on ongoing health and safety initiatives.”

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