Why do compliance audits against HSE legislation
An HSE legal compliance audit is an assessment of compliance with applicable HSE laws. It can be done by internal or external auditors. These audits can reduce the risk of a noncompliance before it gives rise to penalties, bad publicity, injuries or environmental harm.
Audits vs inspections
People might think that conducting regular inspections is enough to assess compliance, but that’s not correct. Inspections are a necessary part of any HSE system, but they typically only cover physical aspects such as spill-containment and PPE use; and they are often poorly done. An audit has more depth and wider coverage.
Defining the audit
What is to be covered in any audit is defined in the audit scope and criteria. The audit scope specifies what is to be examined (eg. which site/department/shift), and the audit criteria specifies what the auditor will be checking against, ie. applicable legislation and other mandatory requirements.
All HSE legal compliance audits should cover two aspects: physical and systems. Identifying the physical aspects is the easiest part and typically involves walking around assessing the physical site for compliance, similar to an inspection. The system aspects (the processes used to manage HSE at the site) are more difficult to evaluate but have far more significance. The organisation’s systems help to ensure the physical aspects and worker behaviour are compliant. Assessment of processes for training and awareness, and the effectiveness of these processes, is pivotal.
What makes a good auditor?
An auditor can be someone from within the organisation or it can be a hired party. Whomever you chose, they need basic auditing skills, a thorough knowledge of the audit criteria, and some knowledge case law (court decisions) to assist in interpreting the legislation (eg. in understanding the organisation’s liability for contractor safety).
If engaging an external auditor, see my earlier article on avoiding the pitfalls.