Though conducting health and safety audits may sound glamorous, being a Peer Auditor is not a job for everyone. Whatever it is that calls you to the task--whether it’s the lure of working in exotic locations (Grande Prairie is lovely in the fall), the prestige of being the property’s resident Auditor, or just the fact that the boss told you to take the training--you may want to take a step back and consider what you are getting into. Before investing the time, money and and effort needed to attempt the steps required for auditor certification, you (and your boss) should be asking the following questions.
1. Do I have an interest in health and safety?
Auditors must have a good understanding of the system they are reviewing in order for results to be accurate and useful to the employer. This knowledge can be taught, but auditor candidates who are not interested in occupational safety will retain less than those who are more engaged in the topic.
2. Do I have experience working in the industry?
Knowledge of the industry/work site being audited is essential for an effective review. Without a basic understanding of the tasks done by workers in the industry, and the types of hazards they may encounter, it will be difficult to accurately assess what the employer is doing well and what gaps may exist.
3. How well can I read?
Documentation review is a critical component of the audit process. Auditors must be able to read and understand the supporting documentation and records they are reviewing, as well as the audit questions and guidelines.
4. How well can I write?
Audit results must be delivered in writing. Auditors will be required to convey their findings to the employer in the form of a professional, complete, and accurate audit report that is clearly written and provides value to the employer.
5. Would I be comfortable conducting interviews?
If you’re not sure, ask yourself if you are comfortable talking to strangers. And can you make those around you feel at ease and comfortable in a stressful situation? People skills like these are an essential part of success as an auditor.
6. Can I remain objective when assessing and observing a company’s work sites, conditions, and processes?
Consider whether or not you would be uncomfortable assigning a failing score to an employer’s audit, something that could cost them their Certificate of Recognition (COR). How about scoring your own property’s program during a maintenance audit? Though inflating a score may seem kind, in the end it gives employers a false sense of security. It may also mean missing the opportunity to point out a deficiency that could prevent a serious incident at the work site.
7. Am I comfortable leading a meeting?
Pre and post audit meetings are an integral part of the audit process. If you are not comfortable speaking in front of a room full of people that includes the senior manager, it will be difficult to fulfill your role in the audit process.
8. Am I able to tactfully communicate negative findings to the property’s staff and management?
Audits are intended to identify areas for improvement, not to be criticisms of an employer’s health and safety system. Auditors must be able to maintain a positive approach, and view their role as a coach, not as a critic.
9. Can I manage my ego?
Auditors must maintain an awareness that they are not the ultimate health and safety authority in the workplace. Their job is simply to gather the data required to answer the audit questions, and present their findings to the employer. They must resist the urge to tell employers “how” to act on the findings in their report, as the employer knows their own property and staff best. Property management must make those decisions themselves.
10. How well do I take criticism?
All audit reports are subject to a quality assurance review by the AHSA. Auditors must be prepared to make any changes required to meet quality standards imposed by Partnerships in Injury Reduction, and not take the feedback personally.
11. Can I meet deadlines?
Specific timelines have been established for audit data gathering periods, report writing, and redrafts, and they must be met for the report to be acceptable to the AHSA. Auditors that don’t meet the required deadlines can cost the audited employer their Certificate of Recognition status.
Before embarking on the road towards Peer Auditor certification, it is important to reflect on whether the endeavor is something for which you are suited. Consider before you make the attempt, that a positive response to the above eleven questions is a good indicator that you will be successful in achieving auditor certification, and will have a good time doing it.