Quick Guide to Auditing OHS Systems
George’s Safety Reflections – by the late George Robotham
There is some confusion in practice between the terms inspection and audit, I distinguish between the two by saying you inspect things and you audit systems.
Organisations that are successful at Occupational Health and Safety have regular comprehensive internal and external audits where OHS standards are introduced. What excellence in implementation of the standards would look like should be defined and people trained in this. A detailed set of audit questions, based on the fore-going should be developed as well as a detailed set of auditing guidelines. The roles of auditors should also be defined. Sites to be audited should be briefed on the auditing guidelines and auditors on the audit questions and auditing guidelines. A series of annual Executive Safety Audits should be introduced at the various sites with an audit team led by a senior manager to give the process significant management horsepower. A quality assurance approach where NCR (Non-compliance reports) are issued should be used and formal processes introduced to follow-up on audit recommendations.
- Whatever paperwork you produce, be succinct. Auditing documentation tends to get unwieldy and difficult to use in practice.
- A method of rating findings must be used.
- Need an opening meeting with stakeholders, including senior management. The auditing process must be explained.
- Need a closing meeting with stakeholders, including senior management to discuss findings and allow rebuttal. Some organisations like to have all supervisors and health & safety representatives at this meeting.
- Need a written report with a concise management summary.
- A physical inspection of the workplace will identify safety system deficiencies.
- Need to examine the safety “paper trail”.
- It is essential that the guidelines to implement whatever standard you are auditing against are well publicised and agreed to beforehand as well as the auditing process agreed to.
- Be prepared for people to lie to you. Be prepared for people to genuinely think an issue was addressed when it was not. Ask for solid evidence to back up people’s assertions.