Alberta is in the forefront of jurisdictions in North America because of its use of Occupational Health and Safety audits in its Partnerships program. Health and Safety Audits measure the Health and Safety Management system of a company against a given standard, they present opportunities for improvement, while also highlighting a company’s strengths.

Understandably, many companies obsess over Health and Safety audits; there is a great deal riding on the successful outcome of an audit. A successful outcome means you receive your Certificate of Recognition, which is awarded by Workplace Health and Safety and your Certifying Partner, such as the Alberta Construction Safety Association. Once you receive your Certificate of Recognition, you get an automatic 5 percent discount on your WCB premiums, with up to a 2 percent additional discount available. Additionally, you can then bid on jobs with major employers like the municipalities, various major prime contractors and employers like Suncor and Syncrude in Alberta. In some industries, like construction, auditing has been around for more than 10 years and is almost a necessity to perform work in certain sectors. Last year, companies that were part of the Partnerships program and who had received and/or maintained their Certificatse of Recognition had a 19 percent lower claims rate than those that did not.

With the financial health of the company riding on a successful audit, it is easy to forget the purpose of an audit and to get focused solely on your score. Many people mistakenly believe that the higher the score on the audit the better your safety program. To a certain extent this is true, but not totally. But is a 98 percent score “better” than a 92 percent score? That depends . sometimes a very good audit score is because of a strong showing in a few elements of the audit. Therefore, a lower-scoring, more consistent audit can actually indicate that a company is performing at a higher level than its higher scoring counterpart. In other words, the company performed well in every element of its safety program, rather than excelling in just a few areas.

Do not get complacent about a high score; safety programs are living, working entities that require continuous improvement and work and implementation to ensure that they are doing what they are supposed to do: reducing losses. Therefore, ask yourself:

  • What have I done to improve my safety program since my last audit?
  • What are some of my strengths as a company and how to I enhance these strengths or improve in those areas of weakness?
  • Are the auditor’s recommendations realistic, measurable, and attainable? Do they make sense?
  • What recommendations, if implemented immediately, would improve my safety program the most?

Don’t let an audit report that you have invested time, money, and effort on just gather dust.apply what you have learned.

Remember, an audit is a snapshot, at a particular point in time, of your Health and Safety Management System. It changes over time as your work evolves, so you may have a very good audit because of the efforts of a particular management member or group of workers. But tomorrow your audit score could be radically different. Work on creating a corporate culture that enhances Health and Safety and your audit will be a reflection of the robustness of this corporate culture.

To conclude, if a company gets 12 percent on the first, external, baseline audit and then 70 percent on the second, progress audit, it has still failed, but I would be, as an auditor, much happier with this showing than that of a company who moves from 88 percent to 96 percent. Why? In the former instance, the company has more than tripled its showing; it has improved tremendously and shown that it is working very hard on its safety program. That’s the point; this should be merely an exercise in passing or failing or keeping score. It should focus on what really matters: improving your Health and Safety program.

(I wish to thank Bob Christie for the idea for this article.)

For more information, click here to contact Barb.