An audit is a common means of measuring an organisation’s safety performance – but are audits of any actual benefit to your organisation? This article explains the process involved in implementing an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS), the benefits and problems with implementing, auditing and certifying the OHSMS, and other methods to improve safety performance.
Au audit is a critical part of an OHSMS. An OHSMS provides a systematic approach to safety and its integrity is tested through the audit process.
5 Audit tools to help you implement an OHSMS
You can implement using one or more of the following tools. You can choose to be audited against these and be certified.
1. AS/NZS 4801 establishes an audit framework mainly for use by third-party bodies that conduct an independent audit of the organisation’s OHSMS. The framework can also be used as a reference for internal auditing procedures. Not all users of the AS/NZS 4804 will need to use AS/NZS 4801.
2. AS/NZS 4804 is the primary Australian Standard for OHSMSs relevant to all organisations, and provides general guidance on how to implement, develop and/or improve an OHSMS.
3. OHSAS 18001 (sometimes incorrectly identified as ISO 18000) defines requirements for an OHSMS, to enable an organisation to control risks and improve its health and safety performance.
(TIP: You can purchase the standards from www.saiglobal.com)
4. SafetyMap (Safety Management Achievement Program) is an audit tool designed by WorkSafe to help workplaces improve their ability to manage health and safety. SafetyMAP is an audit tool, not a system, however the audit criteria can eb used to provide guidance and direction on what features should be included in a health and safety program.
5. National self-insurer OHS management audit tool (NAT) was prepared by WorkCover NSW. The content of the tool was based on AS/NZS 4801, AS/NZS 4804, SafetyMAP and other State tool. The NAT defines the criteria that State regulators use to assess a self-insurer’s OHSMS.
(TIP: Download SafetyMAP: Measuring health and safety management and National self-insurer OHS management system audit tool (NAT) free from www.worksafe.vicgov.au)
What are the differences between audit tools?
There are some differences in the content between the various tools, but the general structures follow the same OHSMS model. You can also implement your own version of an OHSMS. Many of Safety Action’s clients choose to develop or seek assistance to develop their own OHSMS manual, based on the legislative requirements and hazard management needs relevant to their business.
(TIP: you may have a commercial need that determines what tool you use. For example, to self-insure for workers’ compensation, you need to be certified to the NAT)
It is important to comply with legislation.
Conducting an audit against legislative requirements is an effective way to confirm that the organisation has systems in place to address the key health and safety legislation requirements.
(CAUTION: Simply meeting legislative requirements is no assurance of good safety management).
Many businesses have recognised that to direct safety improvement efforts, other information about safety performance, other than injury and illness statistics are also required.
What are the benefits of safety certification?
Certification provides various benefits to different organisations, including:
- Commercial or competitive advantage: Certification is independent recognition of health and safety standards that are often required as part of a tendering process. This may help you win government or major contracts. It is not uncommon for businesses (especially in the construction industry) to seek triple certification (AS 4801 or OHSAS 18001, ISO 9001 Quality and ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems and Standards).
- Performance verification: Certification provides independent verification that your organisation’s OHSMS is implemented and functioning as intended.
- Cost efficient: According to WorkSafe Victoria, an OHSMS that is functioning effectively will help deliver long-term cost efficiencies through the prevention of work-related injury and illness, better industrial relations and constructive ideas for improved performance.
- Recognition for the organisation: As a public demonstration of health and safety achievements, you may display the certification logo/badge to customers, suppliers and the public. You will often see the badges displayed e.g. on trucks, business cards, brochures and websites.
- Due diligence: Certification confirms that your organisation has the capacity to fulfil its legal and ethical responsibilities for health and safety, and is doing so effectively.
(TIP: Certification is not the only answer. You can use an audit tool based on a combination of legislation and various Codes and Australian Standards requirements. Your organisation can also develop you own audit tool relevant to your business.