Quick Guide to Auditing OHS Systems


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.

  1. Whatever paperwork you produce, be succinct. Auditing documentation tends to get unwieldy and difficult to use in practice.
  2. A method of rating findings must be used.
  3. Need an opening meeting with stakeholders, including senior management. The auditing process must be explained.
  4. 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.
  5. Need a written report with a concise management summary.
  6. A physical inspection of the workplace will identify safety system deficiencies.
  7. Need to examine the safety “paper trail”.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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