What to Expect When A H&S Auditor Calls

What is a H&S audit?

According to ISO 45001:2018, “an audit is a systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled”. Simply put, the auditor will want to gain objective evidence that highlights whatever your organisation says it is doing throughout the various policies, procedures or other relevant documentation is indeed the case.

The auditor will be looking for ‘audit evidence’. This could be records relating to the training of employees, accident / near miss reporting, permits that have been issued for high-risk activities or even that frequent checks have been taking place on the buildings fire alarm system. The auditor may also want to speak to employees / contractors to ensure that what they are told about certain procedures or processes is an accurate reflection of what actually happens. Finally, the auditor may make on site observations of certain practices or equipment that could be reinforced through the use of photographs to show that something isn’t right or hasn’t been achieved.

It is important to note that an audit is different from a workplace inspection as it focusses on more than what can just be seen at the time. A combination of all 3 areas of audit evidence may be combined such as viewing vehicle pre-use check documentation, speaking to a driver about how the checks are conducted and then taking a picture of a vehicle that has a bald tyre with no tread to reinforce that the process is not working as it should.

How to prepare your organisation for an audit?

Because an audit requires some form of ‘scope’ or ‘outline’ this should be agreed in advance with the auditor. A good auditor will normally send you a list in advance of the agreed scope of the audit with a list of some of the documentation they may ask to see on the day or some even prior to the visit taking place such as policies, procedures or a list of the risk assessments your organisation has in place. At this point it may also be useful to confirm the outputs from the auditor in terms of the reports and discuss an initial introduction with a Senior Manager or Director. This may also be an opportunity to discuss if they would like a daily wash up on how the audit has gone if it is likely to take more than a day.

Depending on the scope, you may need to liaise early with other managers or departments to ensure the requested material is ready for the day of the audit. Regular checks prior to the start of the audit will ensure nothing is missing.

As well as documentation, you may well decide to create an agenda and plan the day. This is especially important if the auditor is planning to visit different departments within the organisation and consideration should be given to whether or not they will need an escort and an induction. Approximate timelines for readiness will ensure that departments remain productive throughout the rest of the day rather than just waiting for the auditor to turn up.

It may be advisable to ensure there is an area in which the auditor has sufficient space (such as a board meeting room) to lay out all the paperwork and has power sockets for the auditor’s laptop / access to the internet.

When the auditor arrives

When the auditor arrives, ensure they are treated in the manner you would expect to be treated on arrival and greet them accordingly. Ultimately whether the auditor is from an insurance company or one that has been arranged by the organisation to make sure things are being done as per policy, they are there to help. As an employee you may already know some of the things that are not perhaps working as well as expected so can be an asset to the audit rather than a hindrance. You have the chance to make that first impression, so if time permits offer them a warm / cold drink and spend 20 minutes setting the scene of the organisation

Audit check list

In order to assist you in planning and delivering an audit, Cambridge Safety have devised a checklist to try and assist you in making sure that you have a productive and well-planned audit. This list is not exhaustive but may guide you as a starting point.

  • Confirm Audit Scope with auditor: Check to see what the auditor is hoping to achieve and confirm if there are any particular areas they will want to visit.
  • Create an internal audit schedule: Speak to relevant stakeholders and agree on the dates / times and what the auditor has outlined they will be looking for. Confirm specific names if required for interviews and see if any members of senior management want to meet them at the beginning or end of the audit. Remember, this may include names for escorting around the site and an induction if that is company policy.
  • Arrange / book a meeting space and required support: Arrange / book an area suitable for the auditor to use as a homebase for the day in order to check paperwork with appropriate facilities to power laptops, allow internet access etc. This may require assistance from the IT department if your organisation has one or booking hot meals / tea of coffee through the catering department.
  • Collate Information: Collate any required information and separate into before and during visit sections. This will confirm what needs to be sent to the auditor in advance and what needs to be ready on the day.
  • Communicate Internally: Confirm with internal teams what the auditor will be checking during the audit and delegate responsibilities to key stakeholders. Ensure there is recorded written communication with teams and allow adequate time for them to prepare.
  • Progress checks: Ensure that routine checks of progress take place, its easy to think an audit is weeks away and there will always be plenty of time. Priorities sometimes change so gentle reminders should ensure that the day prior to the audit, there may only be minor pieces of information to collate.

On the day of the audit

Final reminder to internal staff: Ensure all staff are reminded that an audit will be taking place and reaffirm that staff must be honest and truthful if spoken to. Trying to cover things up or hide them will only make matters worse.

Greeting:  Greet the Auditor as you would want to be greeted, ensure it’s a warm welcome and sets a good impression from the start. Remain positive about the H&S message.

Oversight of progress and daily wash up: If you are not with the auditor all day, conduct periodic checkups with internal teams to ensure that the audit is on track for time. Do not worry about trying to find out what has been said at each department as that will come out at the end of the visit or at the end of each day during the wash up.


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