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Safety Audits: 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Them

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Safety Audits, A waste of everyone's time or a great way to identify safety improvements?

Opinion will be mixed. Anyone who has been involved in a Safety Audit will have a different one, formed by their own experiences and those around them. Safety Audits can be good, or they can be a disaster.

A good Safety Audit should have all parties engaged positively, working towards a common goal, finding material ways to improve safety at your workplace and enhancing everyone's commitment and understanding. It's a rare occasion when Safety Audits work this well.

So how do you make sure your Safety Audit is a positive experience and avoid those where time seems to stand still while your life force is sucked out of you.

Over the coming weeks Verus will discuss ten ways that Auditors and Auditees can improve the quality of Safety Audits. 

Here's a quick taster:

Make Sure Your System is Ready

There is no point auditing a system that isn't fully developed or hasn't had a chance to be properly implemented.

Make Sure Documentation & Records are Available & Accessible

This should be self-explanatory. If you can't provide your auditor with documentation and records that demonstrate your safety practices, you're going to be hard pressed to get a true indication of your management system performance.

Understand the Reasons for the Safety Audit

Safety Audits occur for many reasons, whether it is to satisfy a certification, a licence or part of normal internal assurance practices. Whilst each might seem the same, the scope of the audit and the activities that it involves can often be different. Understanding the reasons for an audit can help ensure you are best prepared.  

Give the Safety Auditor Time to Prepare

It's in your best interests to give your Auditor a chance to prepare prior to showing up on your doorstep. If they arrive without any knowledge of your system, you will have to explain the detail of every process to them. Send through the suite of procedures that make up your Health and Safety Management System prior to the Safety Audit and let the Safety Auditor review it in their own time, not yours.

Understand the Standard or Criterion

Unfortunately Audit Standards and Criteria aren't often written with the general populace in mind and are usually full of jargon and language designed to help Safety Auditors, rather than Auditees (Check out AS/NZS 4801 or the National Audit Tool for Self Insurance Audits if you are in any doubt). Read the Audit Criteria carefully, along with any guidance material, and make sure you address all that it asks in your systems and processes.  

Make Sure you have a Plan

A Safety Audit is a complex process often squeezed into a tight timeframe. A good Audit Plan, one that allocates suitable time and resources, provides the best chance for the Auditee to demonstrate how they conform to requirements, whilst also providing the Auditor with opportunity to identify meaningful improvement opportunities. 

Use Experienced & Qualified Auditors

Auditing is its own speciality and requires specialist skills. You can verify that your auditor has the requisite skills and experience by asking for evidence of their certification. If the Auditor doesn't have it, you're unlikely to get much value out of the Safety Audit. 

Don't Conceal or Suppress Evidence that isn't Favourable

Experienced Safety Auditors have a knack for knowing when the wool is being pulled over their eyes and will recognise quickly if the Auditee is trying to conceal evidence or direct the Auditor to evidence of one type over another. At the end of the day the Auditor is there to help the Auditee improve, so hiding evidence will only leave your system standing still.

Take a Risk Based Approach

If you have been through a Safety Audit, you would probably recognise those Auditors who don't take a risk based approach to their assessment. Safety Auditors shouldn't use a 'one size fits all' approach, rather they should consider the Auditees risk profile when asking questions and making findings.

Don't Double Dip

Don't be like 'George Costanza' and Double Dip. Whilst evidence is often applicable to more than one Criterion, its poor practice by the Auditor to use the same evidence to give the Auditee two separate whacks. Safety Auditors should closely consider the requirements and the evidence to determine which Criterion it best applies to. 

Over the coming weeks, we will discuss each of these issues in greater detail and provide practical ways to improve your Safety Audit experience. For these updates and more, join our community by subscribing.

Safety Audits: Make Sure Your System is Ready

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