External Safety Audits: Robbery or Rewarding?
Many of us have seen the financial auditors up to their all-too common tricks again, with the collapse of Carillion being one of the most eyebrow raising in a long while. Rachel Reeves MP suggested financial auditors KPMG were “guilty of failing to tackle the crisis” and failed to “paint a true picture of its crippling financial problems.”
The BEIS went on to say that KPMG failed to “exercise professional scepticism towards Carillion’s accounting judgements over the course of its tenure as Carillion’s auditor, KPMG was complicit in them.”
There is a link to the report here.
What is “professional scepticism?”
From our experience as an auditor we suggest that our role is to objectively seek out evidence of compliance, or non-compliance within an agreed common standard. It does not matter if you are being externally audited against a management system such as ISO 45001, or if you prefer HSG 65.
An auditor is an integral part of your management decision making processes. A strong auditor who challenges the senior staff, asks difficult questions, takes unaccompanied or unplanned changes to the plan of the day, may be just the type of auditor you are looking for! More importantly, they may be just the type of auditor your business needs!
We recently spent some time working in one of the most dangerous places I have ever encountered in my professional career. I witnessed people working under poorly secured crane loads, working at height with no protection, smudging of a RIDDOR incident involving a crane, LPG gas unsecured and immediately adjacent to several dozen acetylene and oxygen cylinders. Were people smoking near to the containers? Of course!
Sadly, there were senior safety professionals in place, safety advisors on site and perhaps worst of all…they hold full safety management accreditation with a highly prestigious external auditor.
It took less than two days for us to highlight some of the main issues faced in the organisation above. We did nothing special or use any magical powers. I took a safety walk around, spoke to staff on site informally and took a couple of pictures. When later informing the senior leadership of the findings, some of the quick-wins were taken care of. However, there was no evidence of anything further than this.
Badges for cash
Imagine walking into a bank and telling the cashier you wanted to deposit £20k into your bank account. Then you show them a picture of £20k and they simply put the money in. That would be great, wouldn’t it?
Now let us apply this same analogy to many of the accreditations schemes that you can find on SSIP here.
It may also be worth noting that the above is fully supported by the HSE too! If it is good for the regulator, it must be good for your business, right?
The truth is that many of the SSIP providers are desktop auditors. This means you can pay a consultant to write you a lovely safety management system full of documents….and you would never need to apply or implement them once…but you would still be granted at least one of the SSIP accreditations. Great news if you are just trying to pay for badges to get some work. Not so great should you get found out via regulatory visit.
An example of such an advert for this service is below:
We do it right
Our experience has taught us that many organisations that decide to manage health and safety responsibilities in a professional manner, either:
Have had a serious incident and are on the hook with the regulator / police
Have had a squeaky bottom moment where they could have ended up on the hook
Come from an environment or background where safety really does matter
These are the absolute best organisations to work with. They usually have a feeling that something is not quite right and they just need a helping hand to get them on their way.
There are only two organisations we would recommend to clients who want to do it right.
Firstly, I would highly recommend British Safety Council Five Star Audit. These guys will absolutely put your organisation through its paces. There is a link to them here.
Before you ask, no I do not work for British Safety Council and we are not affiliated to them in any way. The recommendation is based on our experience of how rigorous their audit is and how professional the report is at the end. This is not for the faint of heart!
Secondly, it would seem only fair to mention, Better Safety (Full disclosure, we are definitely affiliated to this one!).
We do something slightly different to the above though. Not only do we audit your business with “sceptical professionalism,” but we also provide you with ongoing support to proactively manage health safety in your business. This achieved by appointing us as your Competent Person or for larger organisations, Strategic Services.
We do not ‘do’ health and safety for you – this is impossible. Lots of consultants will say this, but it is not very often going to be their head on the chopping board when things go wrong. No, it is you that will need the change of underpants and consideration of mortgaging your house to pay for the legal fees.
Our job at Better Safety is to help your organisation apply the added benefits to the business that well managed health and safety systems bring:
Improved communication bottom-up and top-down
Confidence in the workforce to challenge and improve processes and systems
Collaborative working to find solutions
Access to competent advice 24/7
If this is something you consider to be an asset to your business, you can give us a call:
☎ +44 (0) 3300 948 848 (select option 1)